U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Warren Susman: Who Is He, And Why Should You Care?

[I’m at the conference today, but here’s an entry—an appreciation really—I composed for your reading pleasure. – TL]

Once before I wrote about Warren Susman, indirectly. There’s no need to bother with that post because today I want to write directly about him—who he is, and why you should care.

I want to start—and end—with this webpage dedicated to Susman, titled “The Uncollected Warren Susman,” and authored by David Suisman.

The page begins with a brief, two-paragraph write-up on why you should know something about Susman. His most important work is a selected set of essays titled Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century. The collection was published in 1984, but the first essays in it appeared in the 1960s. Intellectual historians may remember this self-identified cultural historian for his entry, the anchor, at the end of New Directions in American Intellectual History. Susman’s piece was titled “‘Personality’ and the Making of Twentieth-century Culture.”

The rest of Suisman’s page on Susman is an extended bibliography of works by Susman, articles about him, and reviews of Culture as History.

But there’s more. First, Suisman has taken the time to upload many of those essays directly. Several bibliographic entries are linked to the relevant essay.

Second, Suisman found two Susman audio recordings. The first is a conversation between Susman and Gordon Wood titled “Ideas and American History.” The exchange was moderated by Hal Walker, and occurred in 1977—apparently at the Wingspread Conference that inspired the New Directions volume. The next audio entry is a conversation between Susman and Lloyd Gardner titled “Post-war American Liberalism.”

If you’re wondering what today’s intellectual historians have thought about Susman, or what use they’ve made of him, check out this essay by Michael Denning, this one by Alice Kessler-Harris, this one by Jackson Lears, and this one by Robert Westbrook.

Enjoy! – TL

2 Thoughts on this Post

  1. When I was trying to figure out if I could really hack it as an intellectual historian, and if I really *wanted* to, my advisor had me start with Susman. It was a good choice, though — as with everything else I’ve read in grad school — I’ll have to re-read it so that I can figure out what the hell it was I was supposed to understand the first time through.

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