Partisan Review Now Free Online: Read All 70 Years of the Preeminent Literary Journal (1934–2003)

partisan review

Found­ed by William Phillips and Philip Rahv in Feb­ru­ary of 1934, left­ist arts and pol­i­tics mag­a­zine Par­ti­san Review came about ini­tial­ly as an alter­na­tive to the Amer­i­can Com­mu­nist Party’s pub­li­ca­tion, New Mass­es. While Par­ti­san Review (PR) pub­lished many a Marx­ist writer, its pol­i­tics diverged sharply from com­mu­nism with the rise of Stal­in. Per­haps this turn ensured the magazine’s almost 70-year run from ’34 to 2003, while New Mass­es fold­ed in 1948. Par­ti­san Review nonethe­less remained a venue for some very heat­ed polit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions (see more on which below), yet it has equal­ly, if not more so, been known as one of the fore­most lit­er­ary jour­nals of the 20th cen­tu­ry.

PR first pub­lished James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” in Sum­mer 1957 and two of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quar­tets in 1940, for exam­ple, as well as Del­more Schwartz’s bril­liant sto­ry “In Dreams Begin Respon­si­bil­i­ties” in a 1937 issue that also fea­tured Wal­lace Stevens, Edmund Wil­son, Pablo Picas­so (writ­ing on Fran­co), James Agee, and Mary McCarthy. “More a lit­er­ary event,” writes Robin Hem­ley at The Believ­er, “than a lit­er­ary mag­a­zine,” even issues six­ty or more years old can still car­ry “the punch of rev­e­la­tion.”

Now you can assess the impact of that punch by access­ing all 70-years’ worth of issues online at Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Cen­ter. BU began host­ing the mag­a­zine in 1978 after it moved from Rut­gers, where found­ing edi­tor William Phillips taught. Now the uni­ver­si­ty has fin­ished dig­i­tiz­ing the entire col­lec­tion, in hand­some scans of vin­tage copies that read­ers can page through like an actu­al mag­a­zine. The col­lec­tion is search­able, though this func­tion is a lit­tle clunky (all links here direct you to the front cov­er of the issue. You’ll have to nav­i­gate to the actu­al pages your­self.)

In a post on the Gotlieb Cen­ter project, Hyper­al­ler­gic points us toward a few more high­lights:

In art, Par­ti­san Review is per­haps best known as the pub­lish­er of Clement Green­berg, who con­tributed over 30 arti­cles from 1939 to 1981, most notably his Sum­mer 1939 essay enti­tled “Avant-Garde and Kitsch.” (Green­berg even made a posthu­mous appear­ance in the Spring 1999 issue.) Beyond Greenberg’s vol­u­ble lega­cy we encounter such land­mark texts as Dwight Macdonald’s “Mass­cult and Mid­cult,” from the Spring 1960 issue, and Susan Sontag’s “Notes on ‘Camp’” from Win­ter 1964, as well as the sem­i­nal pop­u­lar-cul­ture crit­i­cism of Robert Warshow (his essay on the Krazy Kat com­ic strip in the Novem­ber-Decem­ber 1946 issue is espe­cial­ly great) and the work of Hilton Kramer, the con­ser­v­a­tive icon­o­clast who went on to found The New Cri­te­ri­on.

Par­ti­san Review also served as an out­let for George Orwell, who lam­bast­ed left­ist pacifists—calling them, more or less, fas­cist sympathizers—in his series of arti­cles between Jan­u­ary 1941 and the sum­mer of 1946, which he called “Lon­don Let­ters.” Orwell did not hes­i­tate to name names; he also report­ed in 1945 of the “most enor­mous crimes and dis­as­ters” com­mit­ted by the Sovi­ets, includ­ing “purges, depor­ta­tions, mas­sacres, famines, impris­on­ment with­out tri­al, aggres­sive wars, bro­ken treaties….” These things, Orwell remarked “not only fail to excite the big pub­lic, but can actu­al­ly escape notice alto­geth­er.”

Par­ti­san Review, how­ev­er, was not aimed at “the big pub­lic.” Its “rar­i­fied prin­ci­ples,” writes Sam Tanen­haus of Slate—who calls PR “Trot­sky­ist” for its inter­ven­tion­ist boosterism—“attracted only 15,000 sub­scribers at its peak.”PR began in the age of the “lit­tle mag­a­zine,” a “term of hon­or” for the small jour­nals that nur­tured the high cul­ture of their day, and which seem now so anti­quat­ed even as belea­guered pub­lish­ers keep push­ing them out to pre­cious­ly small cliques of devot­ed read­ers. But charges of elit­ism can ring hol­low, and giv­en all we have to thank “lit­tle mag­a­zines” like Par­ti­san Review for, it would prob­a­bly behoove to pay atten­tion to their suc­ces­sors. Enter the archive here.

h/t Hyper­al­ler­gic

Image via Book/Shop

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Exten­sive Archive of Avant-Garde & Mod­ernist Mag­a­zines (1890–1939) Now Avail­able Online

Lis­ten to Audio Arts: The 1970s Tape Cas­sette Arts Mag­a­zine Fea­tur­ing Andy Warhol, Mar­cel Duchamp & Many Oth­ers A New, Vast and Slight­ly Right-Wing Archive of Mag­a­zines, Books and TV Shows

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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Comments (11)
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  • Joanna Alpern says:


    I’m writ­ing a dis­ser­ta­tion on Jean Rhys and I would like to be able to read the fol­low­ing arti­cle from 1982:

    “Jean Rhys.” Par­ti­san Review 49:1 (1982). Reprint­ed in Con­tem­po­rary Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism 124. Farm­ing­ton Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 2000.

    Please let me know if this would be pos­si­ble.


    Joan­na Alpern

  • Sandra Jenkins says:

    Seek­ing The Third World of Women by Susan Son­tag, How to down­load?

  • Barry zuckerman says:

    I read j Ant­jany Lucus arti­cle Trou­bled Ground: Blacks and Jews inBoston years ago and would like to reread to incor­po­rate it in his­to­ry of Boston

  • Jennifer says:

    For ref­er­ence requests for the col­lec­tion which BU hous­es it is best to con­tact them:

  • Dr. Charles Varela says:

    I need the date of a PR arti­cle of a dis­cus­sion among sev­er­al intellectuals––topic: Psy­cho­analy­sis Today.

    It starts off with William Phillips.

  • Massimo Rostagno says:

    I’m writ­ing an essay about Han­nah Arendt. I need to read the arti­cle “The cri­sis in Edu­ca­tion”, pub­lished by your rewiew in 1958. How can I reach it? It is pos­si­ble to have a view of some num­bers of your rewiew?
    I look for­ward to your answer.
    Thanks a lot

    Mas­si­mo Ros­tag­no
    from Italy

  • Troels Svendsen says:

    I am look­ing for Susan Son­tag: “Notes on Camp” pub­lished i Par­ti­san Review in 1964. Can You help me?

  • Janos Gat says:

    Dear Sirs

    I am look­ing for a review by KAREN WILKIN
    sub­ject: Exhi­bi­tion of Ist­van Farkas at the Janos Gat Gallery in 2000
    need exact info on appari­tion for the artist’s bib­li­og­ra­phy
    and, if pos­si­ble, the text of the review
    Thank you
    Janos Gat

  • Livia Franchini says:

    I am writ­ing a doc­tor­al the­sis on Lydia Davis and I am after a piece by Bev­er­ly Hav­i­land, titled ‘Missed Con­nec­tions’. It would be won­der­ful if I could have access to the text and bib­li­o­graph­i­cal details!
    Many thanks!
    Livia Fran­chi­ni

  • Susan Braudy says:

    I would like to read once again Philip Roth’s short sto­ry about the the­atri­cal agent try­ing to find Albert Ein­stein in New Jer­sey to sign him up,
    Susan Braudy

  • Alvart says:

    I need the arti­cle “The Third World of Women” By Susan Son­tag pub­lished in Par­ti­san Review 1973 v. 40

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