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The Uncollected Warren Susman

Called “one of the transformative minds of his generation,” the historian Warren I. Susman (1927-1985) left a deep mark on postwar American cultural and intellectual history.* Today, Susman is best known for his book Culture As History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (1984), which collected fourteen of his far-flung and wide-ranging essays, dating from the early 1960s to the 1980s, most of which had been previously published in obscure journals or appeared as contributions to other works. By the time the book appeared, however, shortly before his untimely death, Susman’s influence was already widely felt and acknowledged. Indeed, the magnitude of his impact was in inverse proportion to the quantity of his published output, and when I started graduate school in the 1990s, scholars still spoke his name in noticeably reverential tones.

Recently, in the course of some tangentially related work, I became interested in the rest of Susman’s corpus, beyond Culture as History. In past years, I had stumbled on a couple of pieces and had seen  tantalizing references to others. So I started digging around. What follows below is an attempt to identify, collect, and make available as much of that work as possible. Typically, I found most of it hibernating in rather out of the way locations. Few of the works are likely to alter Susman’s reputation dramatically, either positively or negatively, but given the paucity of Susman’s writings available, it seemed worthwhile to call attention to the existence of these works and, where feasible, to make them available.

Of particularly note, perhaps, are two sound recordings of Susman, in conversation about American history. I have appended to this listing a section of works about Warren Susman.

I welcome any additions, corrections, or comments; you can email me at [dsuisman {at} udel.edu]. And by the way, I am not in any way related to Susman, despite the closeness of our surnames.

_____

*The phrase is Alice Kessler-Harris’s. See “From Warren Susman to Raymond Williams and Allen Ginsburg: Moving Towards a Future with Illusions,” European Contributions to American Studies 43 (1999): 129.


By Warren Susman

(In reverse order of publication)

“The Historian’s Task,” in History and the New Left: Madison, Wisconsin, 1950-1970, ed. Paul Buhle (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), 275-84. – An interview with Susman (written out in essay form) about his experience as a graduate student in Madison.

“The Smoking Room School of History (1982),” in History and the New Left : Madison, Wisconsin, 1950-1970, ed. Paul Buhle (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), 43-46.

Warren Susman with the assistance of Edward Griffin, “Did Success Spoil the United States? Dual Representations in Postwar America,” in Recasting America: Culture and Politics in the Age of Cold War, ed. Lary May (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).

Warren I. Susman and John W. Chambers, eds., American History, 2nd ed. (New York: M. Wiener Pub., 1987).  A collection of US history syllabi.

“The Great Blue Motorcycle: If Necessity Is the Mother of Inventions, What Are Inventions the Mother of?,” Prospects 11 (1986): 39-58. – Arguably the most substantial of Susman’s (later) essays not collected in Culture As History

“History and Film: Artifact and Experience,” Film & History 15, no. 2 (1985): 26-36.

“Conclusion,” in The Introductory Survey Course: Six Models. Proceedings of the AHA Anapolis Conference on the Introductory History Course (Annapolis, Maryland, September 28-30, 1980), ed. Kevin Reilly (Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association, 1984).

“Ritual Fairs,” Chicago History 12, no. 3 (1983): 4-7.

“Preface,” in Bearing Witness: A Photographic Chronicle of American Life, 1860-1945 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982).

Warren Susman, “Annapolis Conference on the Introductory Course,” AHA Newsletter (Nov. 1982): 18-23.

Eugene D Genovese and Warren Susman, “Editorial Statement: A Note to Our Readers,” Marxist Perspectives 1 (Spring 1978): 4-5.

“Movie Music and Picture Palaces,” liner notes for The Mighty Wurlitzer: Music for Movie Palace Organs (New World Records, 80227, 1977).

Editor and compiler, Culture and Commitment, 1929-1945. (New York: G. Braziller, 1973).  With introductory essay reprinted in Culture as History.

“Preface,” in Wisconsin Death Trip, ed. Michael Lesy (New York: Pantheon Books, 1973).

With J. Joseph Huthmacher, “Editor’s Introduction,” Herbert Hoover and the Crisis of American Capitalism, The American forum series (Cambridge, Mass: Schenkman, 1973). Contributors: Ellis W. Hawley, Murray N. Rothbard, Robert F. Himmelberg.

With J. Joseph Huthmacher, “Editor’s Introduction,” Wilson’s Diplomacy: An International Symposium, The American Forum Series (Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman, 1973), vii-xiv. Contributors: Arthur S. Link, Jean-Baptiste Duroselle, Ernst Fraenkel, H. G. Nicholas.

With J. Joseph Huthmacher, “Editor’s Introduction,” The Origins of the Cold War, The American Forum Series (Waltham, Mass.: Ginn, 1970), v-x. Contributors: Lloyd C. Gardner, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Hans J. Morganthau.

The Reconstruction of an American College: Some Proposals for Rutgers College ([New Brunswick N.J.]: Rutgers University, 1968). At the request of the Dean of Rutgers College, Susman spent a semster assembling his ideas on education. The result was this book, in which Susman envisioned an “open college,” where students and teachers collaborated on a less hierarchical basis.

“Merle Curti,” in International encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, ed. David Sills ([New York]: Macmillan, 1968), 18:132-36.

“A Second Country: The Expatriate Image,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 3 (1961): 171-83.

“Pilgrimage to Paris: The Backgrounds of American Expatriation, 1920-1934″ (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Wisconsin, 1958).

Plus, a few short book reviews:

“Review: The Party of Eros: Radical Social Thought and the Realm of Freedom by Richard King,”  Journal of American History 59, no. 3 (December 1972): 776-777.

“Review: Heaven, Hell, & History: A Survey of Man’s Faith in History from Antiquity to the Present by John T. Marcus,”  American Historical Review 74, no. 3 (February 1969): 942-943.

“Review: American Studies in Transition by Marshall W. Fishwick,”  American Historical Review 71, no. 2 (January 1966): 656-658.

“Review: John Jay Chapman: An American Mind. by Richard B. Hovey,” American Quarterly 12, no. 4 (Winter 1960): 525-526.

Audio Recordings

Warren Susman and Gordon S. Wood, participants, Ideas and American History, moderated by Hal Walker (Racine, Wis.: Johnson Foundation, 1977). From a meeting organized by the Org. of American Historians. Conversations from Wingspread series. Courtesy of the Vincent Voice Library of Michigan State University.

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Warren Susman and Lloyd Gardner, Post-war American Liberalism (Townsend [Eng.]: Sussex Tapes, 1971).

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On Warren Susman

Andrew R. Heinze, “Schizophrenia Americana: Aliens, Alienists, and the “Personality Shift” of Twentieth-Century Culture,” American Quarterly 55, no. 2 (June 2003): 227-256.

Alice Kessler-Harris, “From Warren Susman to Raymond Williams and Allen Ginsberg: Moving Towards a Future with Illusions,” European Contributions to American Studies 43 (1999): 129-141.

Jonathan M. Wiener, “Radical Historians and the Crisis in American History, 1959-1980,”  Journal of American History 76, no. 2 (September 1989): 399-434. This article doesn’t focus on Susman in particular, but he figures into it enough to warrant inclusion.

In Memory of Warren I. Susman, 1927-1985: Papers Delivered at Scott Hall, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, May 5, 1985. (New Brunswick N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1986).

Michael Denning, “Class and Culture: Reflections on the Work of Warren Susman,” Radical History Review 36 (1986): 110-13.

Richard Yeselson, “Sussing It Out,” Voice Literary Supplement, April 1985.

Paul Buhle, “Tuning in Warren Susman,” Voice Literary Supplement, April 1985.

Robert Westbrook, “Abundant Cultural History: The Legacy of Warren Susman Review of Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century,” Reviews in American History 13, no. 4 (1985): 481.

A few reviews of Culture As History

Jon Wiener, “Is Abundance Good for Us?” New York Times, Mar. 10, 1985

Jackson Lears, “In the American Grain,” The Nation, May 4, 1985, 532-35

Alan Brinkley, “Pop Goes America,” New Republic, Apr. 1, 1985, 36-8


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