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Robinson, Paul A. 1940–

Robinson, Paul A. 1940–

PERSONAL: Born October 1, 1940, in San Diego, CA; son of Joseph Cook (a school principal) and Beryl (a teacher; maiden name, Lippincott) Robinson; children: Susan Marie. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1962; graduate study at Free University of Berlin, 1962–63; Harvard University, Ph.D., 1968.

ADDRESSES: Home—550 Battery St., Apt. 1707, San Francisco, CA 94111. Office—Department of History, 450 Serra Mall, Bldg. 200, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305–2024. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Stanford University, Stanford, CA, assistant professor, 1967–73, associate professor of history, beginning 1973, director of Berlin studies program, beginning 1976. Fellow at Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and at Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University.

MEMBER: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS: Guggenheim fellow, 1970–71; Dean's Award, Stanford University, for excellence in teaching; Dinkelspiel Award, Stanford University, for outstanding service to undergraduate education.

WRITINGS:

The Freudian Left: Wilhelm Reich, Geza Roheim, Herbert Marcuse, Harper (New York, NY), 1969.

(Editor, with David M. Kennedy) Social Thought in America and Europe, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1970.

The Modernization of Sex: Havelock Ellis, Alfred Kinsey, William Masters, and Virginia Johnson, Harper (New York, NY), 1976.

Stokowski, Lester & Orpen (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1977.

Solti, Lester & Orpen (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1979.

Bernstein, Vanguard (New York, NY), 1982.

Opera and Ideas: From Mozart to Strauss, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1985.

Freud and His Critics, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1993.

Ludwig Van Beethoven: "Fidelio," Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Gay Lives: Homosexual Autobiography from John Addington Symonds to Paul Monette, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1999.

Opera, Sex, and Other Vital Matters, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Queer Wars: The New Gay Right and Its Critics, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2005.

Contributor to periodicals, including New Republic, Partisan Review, Atlantic, and Salmagundi.

SIDELIGHTS: Paul A. Robinson has specialized in nineteenth-and twentieth-century intellectual history in Europe and the United States. In his books, especially his more recent works, he has frequently written on the subjects of classical music and opera, sex and homosexuality, sometimes even combining essays on music with sex into one volume. In Opera and Ideas: From Mozart to Strauss, the historian examines intellectual thought and history in the context of great musical compositions. As Otto Friedich pointed out in a Time review, for instance, the author "asserts that Berlioz's Trojans dramatizes the nineteenth century's obsession with history, that Verdi's Don Carlo portrays the conflict between liberalism and realpolitik, [and] that Wagner's Meistersinger illustrates the aesthetic movement's beliefs about art and society." Robinson once told CA: "I am interested in the connections between the history of opera and the history of thought—with showing how the great European operas from Mozart to Strauss reflect the general evolution of European thought and culture from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century."

In a work that links his interest with music, gay studies, and psychoanalysis, Opera, Sex, and Other Vital Matters, Robinson "seeks above all to anchor individual operas within their appropriate historical contexts," reported Herbert Lindenberger in the Journal of the American Musicological Society. The critic further noted that Robinson argues "that the composer's conscious intention is not the issue" when studying opera, since historical influences will often influence a musical work without the composer even being conscious of it. About half of the essay collection focuses on music, touching on various important operas. Opera News contributor Fred Cohn found many of the essays on opera to be successful, even brilliant. For example, wrote Cohn: "The chapter linking Fidelio to the French Revolution is Robinson's most extended essay on opera here, and it's a tour de force of musical and dramatic analysis." With only one quibble about Robinson's denial of any anti-Semitic content in the operatic work of Richard Wagner, Cohn asserted that "Robinson's special gift is his ability to connect music with meaning."

The later essays in Opera, Sex, and Other Vital Matters focus on psychology, gay sex, and even pets, and are unrelated to the opera chapters except for the fact that they are all subjects that interest Robinson, "giving the book a strong element of autobiography," according to Cohn. Robinson has written more extensively about homosexuality in Gay Lives: Homosexual Autobiography from John Addington Symonds to Paul Monette and Queer Wars: The New Gay Right and Its Critics. In the former, "Robinson's purpose is to analyze the lives of the gay writers who, from the Victorian period to the 1980s, 'make attraction to their own sex a central theme of their autobiographies,'" related Jim Brogan in a Biography review. The historian ruminates on the writings of such authors as Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, and Henry James. "The thoroughness of his analyses makes this work especially useful as a crucial disseminator of gay social history," added Brogan.

With the more recent Queer Wars, Robinson tackles such relatively obscure authors as Gabriel Rotello, Andrew Sullivan, and Bruce Bawer. The premise of the book is that there is a growing movement in the gay community toward a more conservative political stance. The author defines the gay conservative stance, according to a Lambda Book Report review by R.A. Horne, this way: "Rejection of a meaningful relationship between homosexuality and any political agenda, rejection of nontraditional gender roles and rejection of sexual promiscuity." Horne felt that Queer Wars will provide readers "with a valuable opportunity to hear the other side…. Robinson is a perfect guide to lead you among these views." On the other hand, Duncan Mitchel, writing in the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, felt that the book lacks "coherent intellectual force" and that the author does not cover the issue as thoroughly as he should have. "For all its oversimplifications," Mitchel nevertheless concluded, "Queer Wars provides a pleasant enough reading experience, and Robinson is a better writer than many of his subjects."

Robinson once told CA: "Beyond my teaching responsibilities (which lie primarily in the area of modern European intellectual history) and my scholarly writing, I have a general interest in the quality of intellectual and personal life. Thus in my more journalistic writings, I've addressed such diverse issues as television, homosexuality, intellectual fads (such as Michel Foucault), and singing. I would describe myself as a political radical and a cultural conservative."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Biography, winter, 2000, Jim Brogan, review of Gay Lives: Homosexual Autobiography from John Addington Symonds to Paul Monette, p. 257.

Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, September-October, 2005, Duncan Mitchel, "One Man's'Conservative,'" review of Queer Wars: The New Gay Right and Its Critics, p. 42.

Journal of the American Musicological Society, fall, 2004, Herbert Lindenberger, review of Opera, Sex, and Other Vital Matters, p. 684.

Lambda Book Report, April-May, 2005, R.A. Horne, review of Queer Wars, p. 38.

Opera News, September, 2002, Fred Cohn, review of Opera, Sex, and Other Vital Matters, p. 117.

Time, August 19, 1985, Otto Friedich, review of Opera and Ideas: From Mozart to Strauss, p. 67.

ONLINE

Stanford University Web site, http://www.stanford.edu/ (February 13, 2006), career information on Paul A. Robinson.

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