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Trilling, Diana

TRILLING, DIANA

TRILLING, DIANA (1905–1996), U.S. literary critic. Born in New York to Polish immigrants, Diana Rubin graduated from Radcliffe College. In 1927 she met Lionel *Trilling, a graduate student in literature at Columbia who was to become one of the foremost literary critics and teachers in the United States. They married in 1929. "With marriage I had entered Lionel's world," she wrote. "It was with his friends that I chiefly associated. They were not easy companions, these intellectuals. They were overbearing and arrogant, excessively competitive; they lacked magnanimity and often they lacked common courtesy. Ours was a cruelly judgmental society, often malicious and riddled with envy." These intellectuals included Alfred *Kazin, Irving *Howe, Philip *Rahv, Sidney *Hook, Delmore *Schwartz, Dwight McDonald, Hannah *Arendt, Saul *Bellow, Mary McCarthy, Clement *Greenberg, Irving Kristol, and others who helped set the intellectual agenda of the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. Diana Trilling began writing in 1941 and continued into her 90th year, despite failing eyesight, composing a 75-page article on a Welsh literary figure for The New Yorker. At one point, as a critic for The Nation, she read a novel a day for six and a half years, delivering challenging reviews on some of the most important works of the modern era: Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, Jean-Paul Sartre's Age of Reason, and George Orwell's 1984. No novels, volumes of poetry, or short fiction bore her name, but among her writing credits were five books: three collections of essays and reviews, an impressionistic piece of journalism, Mrs. Harris: The Death of the Scarsdale Diet Doctor (1981), and The Beginning of the Journey (1984), a memoir. Her work appeared in leading magazines, including The Atlantic, Harper's, The Saturday Review, and The Partisan Review, to which she contributed essays. In 1975 Lionel Trilling died, and in the years that followed she worked to assure his legacy, editing a 12-volume uniform edition of his work. She also published two collections of her criticism, Reviewing the Forties and We Must My Darlings (1977).

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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