Harry Tuchman Levin
was an American literary critic and scholar of modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...
and comparative literature
Comparative literature is an academic field dealing with the literature of two or more different linguistic, cultural or national groups...
Born in Minneapolis, Harry Levin was educated at Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...
(where he was a contemporary of M. H. Abrams
Meyer Howard Abrams is an American literary critic, known for works on Romanticism, in particular his book The Mirror and the Lamp. Under Abrams' editorship, the Norton Anthology of English Literature became the standard text for undergraduate survey courses across the U.S...
), graduated in 1933, and began teaching there in 1939, the same year he married Elena Zarudnaya. He became Irving Babbitt
Irving Babbitt was an American academic and literary critic, noted for his founding role in a movement that became known as the New Humanism, a significant influence on literary discussion and conservative thought in the period between 1910 to 1930...
Professor of Comparative Literature
at Harvard in 1960, and retired in 1983. He continued to live near campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...
until his death in 1994. He was survived by his widow Elena and their daughter Marina.
His course in "Comedy on the Stage" inspired Leonard Lehrman
Leonard J[ordan] Lehrman was born in Kansas, on August 20, 1949, but grew up in Roslyn, NY, becoming the youngest private composition student of Elie Siegmeister . Since Aug...
to write the paper, "The Threepenny Cradle," comparing the Brecht
Bertolt Brecht was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director.An influential theatre practitioner of the 20th century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the...
Kurt Julian Weill was a German-Jewish composer, active from the 1920s, and in his later years in the United States. He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht...
to Marc Blitzstein
Marcus Samuel Blitzstein, better known as Marc Blitzstein , was an American composer. He won national attention in 1937 when his pro-union musical The Cradle Will Rock, directed by Orson Welles, was shut down by the Works Progress Administration...
's The Cradle Will Rock
The Cradle Will Rock is a 1937 musical by Marc Blitzstein. Originally a part of the Federal Theatre Project, it was directed by Orson Welles, and produced by John Houseman. The show was recorded and released on seven 78-rpm discs in 1938, making it the first cast album recording.The musical is a...
. In the fall of 1969, in a production of Cradle
directed by Lehrman, Levin was the sole patron. In 1970-1971 he encouraged, advised, and became a patron for two other Harvard productions by Lehrman: the U.S. premiere of Brecht's The Days of the Commune
The Days of the Commune is a play by the twentieth-century German dramatist Bertolt Brecht. It dramatises the rise and fall of the Paris Commune in 1871. The play is an adaptation of the 1937 play The Defeat by the Norwegian poet and dramatist Nordahl Grieg...
, and a triple-bill in memory of Blitzstein, which was attended by Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim...
. It was at that production that Levin invited Bernstein to become Norton Lecturer at Harvard, which he did, a year later.
In 1985, the American Comparative Literature Association began awarding the Harry Levin Prize
for books on literary history or criticism and in 1997, Harvard University endowed the new chair (position) of Harry Levin Professor of Literature
- The Broken Column (1931), Harvard undergraduate essay published by Cambridge UP
- Ben Jonson, Selected Works (1938) editor
- James Joyce: A Critical Introduction (1941)
- Toward Stendhal (1945)
- The Portable James Joyce (1947) editor
- Toward Balzac (1947)
- Perspectives of Criticism (1950) editor
- The overreacher, a study of Christopher Marlowe (1952)
- Symbolism and Fiction (1956)
- Contexts of Criticism (1957)
- The Power of Blackness: Hawthorne, Poe, Melville (1958)
- The Question of Hamlet (1959)
- Irving Babbitt and the Teaching of Literature (1960) Inaugural Lecture
- The Scarlet Letter and other Tales of the Puritans by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1961) editor
- The Gates of Horn: A Study of Five French Realists (1963)
- The Comedy of Errors (1965) editor
- Refractions: Essays in Comparative Literature (1966)
- Playboys and Killjoys: An Essay on the Theory and Practice of Comedy (1988)