Of This Time, Of That Place and Other Stories, Lionel Trilling
Of This Time, Of That Place and Other Stories Lionel Trilling
American critic, essayist, novelist, short-story writer, and editor.
The following entry presents criticism on Trilling's short-story collection Of This Time, Of That Place and Other Stories (1979) from 1963 through 1988. See also Lionel Trilling Criticism (Volume 9), and Volumes 11, 24
Recognized as one of the foremost American literary critics of the twentieth century, Trilling also wrote several short stories that were published in periodicals during his lifetime. In 1979, four years after his death, five of his best stories were collected and published as Of This Time, Of That Place and Other Stories. Reviewers praised the stories as complex tales that explore characteristic thematic concerns of Trilling's fictional and nonfictional work. Although Of This Time, Of That Place and Other Stories has garnered little critical attention, commentators have commended the volume as a notable and underrated work.
Plot and Major Characters
Of This Time, Of That Place and Other Stories is comprised of five stories, all of which had been published previously in periodicals. “Impediments,” originally published in Menorah Journal in 1925, is the account of an uncomfortable encounter between two university students. “The Other Margaret,” which initially appeared in the Partisan Review in 1945, concerns an urbane, wealthy New York family and their African American maid, Margaret. In the story, the family's liberal ideas are challenged when Margaret proves to be a destructive, troubled young woman. When the daughter of the family, also named Margaret, tries to excuse the maid's mean-spirited behavior, the patriarch of the family realizes that despite her troubles, the maid is not excused from individual responsibility and societal obligations. “Notes on a Departure,” the third story in Of This Time, Of That Place and Other Stories, was originally published in the Menorah Journal in 1929. It chronicles the final days of a university professor on campus, as he prepares to leave his job for good. He reflects on his tendency to separate himself from his colleagues, the town, and the university in general. In “The Lesson and the Secret,” which initially appeared in Harper's Bazaar in 1945, Trilling explores the dynamics of a creative writing class frequented by older, society ladies who clash with their young male instructor. In the best-known story of the collection, “Of This Time, Of That Place,” which was published in the Partisan Review in 1943, Trilling once again returns to an academic setting to chronicle the relationship between an English instructor and poet, Joseph Howe, and two of his students: Tertan, a brilliant, but mentally ill student of philosophy and art; and Blackburn, a wily and unprincipled opportunist. Howe's eventual betrayal of Tertan's and Blackburn's professional successes leads Howe to reevaluate his own value system.
In several of his stories, Trilling strived to strip away the veneer of civility in societal interactions to expose inner lives of emotional strife, hidden motives, scruples, and self-discovery. As Trilling stated, fiction should “raise questions in our minds not only about the conditions but about ourselves, lead us to refine our motives and ask what might lie behind our good impulses.” Along with a ruthless examination of morality, he often addressed the limits of liberal ideology in his stories—several characters reject liberal values in favor of more conservative concepts of materialism, opportunism, and individual responsibility. Reviewers note that several of the stories in Of This Time, Of That Place and Other Stories concern maturation and explore the relationship between art and life as well as science and morality.
Trilling is considered a renowned literary critic, and critics speculate that his reputation as a critic has overshadowed his fictional work, which includes Of This Time, Of That Place and Other Stories. Commentators note that the stories in the volume embody themes that occupy a prominent place in his critical work. Several of the stories are viewed as autobiographical in nature. Critics have speculated as to the origins of the characters in the stories, particularly “Of This Time, Of That Place.” The stories have been derided as being too literary and old-fashioned to attract much new critical attention. Yet reviewers praise them as erudite and complex tales befitting a critic of great reputation, and they urge greater critical and popular attention to Of This Time, Of That Place and Other Stories.
Of This Time, Of This Place and Other Stories 1979
Matthew Arnold (criticism) 1939
E. M. Forster (criticism) 1943
The Middle of the Journey (novel) 1947
The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society (essays) 1950
Freud and the Crisis of Our Culture (essays) 1955
The Opposing Self: Nine Essays in Criticism (essays) 1955
A Gathering of Fugitives (essays) 1956
The Scholar's Caution and the Scholar's Courage (essays) 1962
Beyond Culture: Essays on Literature and Learning (essays) 1965
Sincerity and Authenticity (essays) 1972
Mind in the Modern World (essays) 1973
The Works of Lionel Trilling. 12 vols. (essays and criticism) 1977-80
The Last Decade: Essays and Reviews 1965-1975 (essays) 1979
Prefaces to the Experience of Literature (essays) 1979
Speaking of Literature and Society (essays) 1980
The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected Essays (essays) 2000
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SOURCE: Hagopian, John V. “The Technique and Meaning of Lionel Trilling's ‘The Other Margaret’.” Etudes Anglaises 16, no. 3 (July-September 1963): 225-29.
[In the following essay, Hagopian examines Trilling's narrative technique in “The Other Margaret.”]
When an eminent literary critic, especially of a moralistic Arnoldian persuasion, takes a hand at writing fiction, the result is rarely as distinguished an achievement as Lionel Trilling's short story, “The Other Margaret.” As is to be expected, Trilling's fiction embodies ideas and values which occupy a prominent place in his criticism. “The greatness of fiction”, he has said, “and its practical usefulness lay in its unremitting work of involving the reader himself in the moral life, inviting him to put his own motives under examination, suggesting that reality is not as his conventional education has led him to see it.” (“Manners, Morals, and the Novel,” in The Liberal Imagination, London, 1951, p. 222.) No statement could more aptly describe not only the effect of “The Other Margaret,” but also its substance; for in the story we see a man who, as a result of his contemplation of a work of art, is provoked into a ruthless examination of his own moral life and a rejection of the false values of his liberal education. More specifically, Trilling dramatizes the epiphany of a “moral realist,” i.e., one who has...
(The entire section is 2263 words.)
SOURCE: George, Diana L. “Thematic Structure in Lionel Trilling's ‘Of This Time, Of That Place’.” Studies in Short Fiction 13, no. 1 (winter 1976): 1-8.
[In the following essay, George identifies the basic themes of “Of This Time Of That Place”—art and life, subjectivity and objectivity, science and morality—and investigates how they are connected to each other by a complex structure.]
Lionel Trilling has favored his readers with generous explanations of the genesis and meaning of his short story “Of This Time, Of That Place”1; yet the story is extraordinarily subtle, and its meanings are richer than Trilling and his critics have yet demonstrated. In his introduction to the story in his anthology, The Experience of Literature, Trilling explains his own conception of its primary purpose, which is to “present the sad irony of a passionate devotion to the intellectual life maintained by a person of deranged mind” (p. 358). It was, essentially, to be the story of Tertan. But Tertan, the mad student who gives the story its essential structural and thematic unity, is not the primary character whose story this becomes. It is Howe, narrator and professor, whose moral dilemma elevates the story to nearly tragic proportions.
The dramatic situation of the story is relatively simple; it explores the relationship between a young professor of literature and...
(The entire section is 3943 words.)
SOURCE: Furbank, P. N. “The Gravities of Grown-upness.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4090 (21 August 1981): 951.
[In the following favorable review, Furbank traces a connection between the stories in Of This Time, Of That Place and Trilling's critical work and identifies growing up as a central theme in the collection.]
Lionel Trilling's fictional output was, so far as I know, a very small one: one published novel and a small handful of stories, from which Diana Trilling has now selected just five [in Of This Time, Of That Place]. We need not therefore conclude that he was not “really” a novelist. A couple of his stories, “The Other Margaret” and “Of This Time, Of That Place”, seem to me remarkably fine and likely to live. Nor need we entertain the stock notion of the critic in Trilling stifling the creator. For criticism is the whole theme of his stories. They deal in cases of conscience and critical dilemmas, dilemmas involving the rival claims of good enlightened causes; and the life of their protagonists—typically, intellectuals—is a continual process of self-criticism. Their strength is exactly the strength of his literary criticism, and the excellence of the one heightens our sense of the excellence of the other.
A different doubt is whether these stories are too literary; and I suppose the answer is “occasionally so”. It gives us just the...
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SOURCE: Elledge, W. Paul. “The Profaning of Romanticism in Trilling's ‘Of This Time, Of That Place’.” Modern Fiction Studies 29, no. 2 (summer 1983): 213-26.
[In the following essay, Elledge explores the tension between romantic and classical values in “Of This Time, Of That Place.”]
For all its architectonic elegance, its shrewdly crafted network of thematically reinforcing symbols, its wry wit and multi-layered ironies, its stylistic grace and haunting poignance, Lionel Trilling's oft-anthologized “Of This Time, Of That Place” (1943) has inspired neither the amount nor the intensity of critical examination one might reasonably have expected of a story so inherently appealing, by virtue of its setting, characters, and the situation it dramatizes, to the academic community. Why this should be the case, I am not sure. Perhaps Trilling's own commentary1 had the (unconsciously desired?) effect of curbing further investigation; perhaps the story has grown stale through overexposure, or old-fashioned by juxtaposition with new wave fiction (with which, however, it continues to cohabit in collection after collection); perhaps we have been more, and justifiably, concerned with Trilling's greater achievements elsewhere; conceivably, what strikes me as the story's rich complexity may seem to others self-evident simplicity. But I rather suspect that another and far different reason...
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SOURCE: Cowan, S. A. “Parrington, Woolley, and Reality: A Note on Trilling's ‘Of This Time, Of That Place’.” English Language Notes 26, no. 2 (December 1988): 56-9.
[In the following essay, Cowan speculates that the character of Frederic Woolley from “Of This Time, Of This Place” was based on the American literary historian V. L. Parrington.]
Lionel Trilling's commentary on “Of This Time, Of That Place” makes plain that two characters—Ferdinand Tertan and Theodore Blackburn—had their origins in actual students Trilling had taught at Columbia College.1 In addition, the story leaves one with the impression that the instructor, Joseph Howe, is to a considerable degree a fictionalized projection of Trilling himself. In this tale, as in the author's other early stories recounting a young intellectual's experiences in the academic world, the autobiographical tone is unmistakable.2 The reader, then, who supposes that a real person was in Trilling's thoughts when the critic Frederic Woolley came into existence is not deceived. Evidence suggests that, in the main, Trilling conceived Woolley as a wry simplification of the historian of American literature V. L. Parrington, author of the classic Main Currents in American Thought.3
Three years before “Of This Time, Of That Place” was published, Trilling was setting out his thoughts about...
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SOURCE: Hagopian, John V. “A Reader's Moral Dissent from Lionel Trilling's ‘Of This Time, Of That Place’.” In American Literature in Belgium, edited by Gilbert Debusscher, pp. 227-38. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1988.
[In the following essay, Hagopian elucidates the relationship between Trilling and Joseph Howe, the implied narrator of “Of This Time, Of This Place.”]
Let me begin with a passage from “Of This Time, Of That Place”:
It was a busy and official day of cards and sheets, arrangements and small decisions, and it gave Howe pleasure. Even when it was time to attend the first of the weekly Convocations he felt the charm of the beginning of things when intention is still innocent and uncorrupted by effort. He sat among the young instructors on the platform and joined in their humorous complaints at having to assist at the ceremony, but actually he got a clear satisfaction from the ritual of prayer and prosy speech and even from wearing his academic gown.1
We know, of course, from the teachings of Monroe Beardsley, Wayne Booth, Wolfgang Iser, Seymour Chatman and others that it is not the real Lionel Trilling observing the character Joseph Howe, but an implied author whose relationship with the real author is problematical. Furthermore, we are admonished by Gerald Prince, Seymour Chatman and others, that the person...
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Krupnick, Mark. “Jewish Intellectuals and the ‘Deep Places of the Imagination’.” Shofar 21, no. 3 (2003): 29-47.
Views “Of This Time, Of That Place” as an example of Trilling's fullest artistic vision.
Trilling, Lionel. “Of This Time, Of That Place: Lionel Trilling, 1905-1975.” In Prefaces to the Experience of Literature, pp. 160-65. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979.
Originally published in 1967, Trilling discusses the origins of the characters in “Of This Time, Of That Place.”
Additional coverage of Trilling's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: American Writers Supplement, Vol. 3; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12R, 61-64; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vols. 10, 105; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vols. 9, 11, 24; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 28, 63; Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, Ed. 3; Literature Resource Center; Major 20th-Century Writers, Eds. 1, 2; Reference Guide to American Literature, Ed. 4; and Twayne's United States Authors.
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