Other literary forms
Although Malcolm Cowley (KOW-lee) began his literary career as a poet and remained a practicing poet, critic of poetry, and adviser to scores of American poets for most of his more than sixty-year career, his literary reputation derives chiefly from his prose works, which include literary criticism and literary and cultural history as well as numerous essays and book reviews written for newspapers, magazines, and literary journals. Many of Cowley’s critical essays are considered to be seminal studies of major American poets and novelists, such as Hart Crane, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner. In addition, Cowley’s major works of literary and cultural history, including Exile’s Return (1934, 1951), The Literary Situation (1954), A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation (1973), And I Worked at the Writer’s Trade (1978), and The Dream of the Golden Mountains: Remembering the 1930’s (1980), have served as primary sources of information about the intellectual, social, political, and historical events and issues that shaped the aesthetic practices and the social and political beliefs of modern American writers. Cowley’s published books range from pioneering translations of important novels and essays by French writers of the 1920’s and 1930’s, such as Paul Valéry and André Gide, to editions of the works of several of America’s classic nineteenth century writers, such as Walt Whitman and Nathaniel Hawthorne. His publications also include a volume analyzing the intellectual history of modern Western civilization, Books That Changed Our Minds (1939; with Bernard Smith), and a historical study of the African slave trade, Black Cargoes: A History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1518-1865 (1962; with Daniel Pratt Mannix).
Cowley edited anthologies of several of his contemporaries, editions that significantly contributed to expanding their audience and to establishing their literary reputations. The most notable of these are The Portable Hemingway (1944), The Portable Faulkner (1946), The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1951), and Three Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1953; with Edmund Wilson).
Cowley’s literary journalism has been partially collected in two volumes, Think Back on Us: A Contemporary Chronicle of the 1930’s (1967) and A Many-Windowed House: Collected Essays on American Writers and American Writing (1970). The only portion of Cowley’s literary correspondence (most of which is housed in Chicago’s Newberry Library) that has been published is a volume of letters, with explanatory narration, between Cowley and William Faulkner regarding their eighteen-year friendship, The Faulkner-Cowley File: Letters and Memories, 1944-1962 (1966).