Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Frank Rosengarten

I was very sorry to learn of the passing of Frank Rosengarten, a respected American scholar of Antonio Gramsci and C.L.R. James (he once wrote a great article exploring the similarities and differences between the two of them) , who I only had the good fortune to meet with twice.  I remember best my first meeting with him back in 2009 at a conference in Canada, and this was in the aftermath of my recently publishing a rather critical review of his latest book.  I was therefore in a bit of trepidation about us meeting, as why would a highly respected professor even want to meet a lowly PhD student who had just critiqued a book he had spent years researching and writing?  Yet after meeting and discussing my review of his book over a coffee, I was struck by his lack of rancour with me, which might well have been justified, and his complete lack of any arrogance or egotism whatsoever (sadly something sometimes in short supply among academic Marxists) and we were able to have a very fraternal and friendly discussion, even if the different Marxist political traditions we came from meant there was never exactly going to be any complete meeting of minds.  As others who knew him better have all attested, there was just something very warm and gentlemanly about him, and my sincere condolences to his family, friends, comrades.

Edited to add:  Details of Frank Rosengarten's memoir, Through Partisan Eyes: My Friendships, Literary Education, and Political Encounters in Italy (1956-2013). With Sidelights on My Experiences in the United States, France, and the Soviet Union:

Frank Rosengarten’s Through Partisan Eyes is a remarkably powerful antidote to the pervasive view of Italy as a museum. His memoir brings poignantly into relief a vibrant scene of intellectuals (in the capacious definition of the term that encompasses scholars, artists, and many others who help shape a society’s self-representation and its broader world view) grappling with urgent social and political issues of national and international import. From as far back as his graduate student years at Columbia University, through the decades he spent as a university professor, to his current activities as a remarkably productive independent scholar, Rosengarten’s thinking, research, and writing have always been ineluctably intertwined with a deep concern for social justice and what in today’s parlance one would term the plight of the subalterns. He has never adopted the stance of the scholar gazing at his/her object of study with aesthetic detachment or moral indifference — nor has he ever tried to. It is, precisely and paradoxically, because he views and engages the world around him “through partisan eyes” that Rosengarten’s recollections of and reflections on his life, career, friendships and encounters differ refreshingly and, often, strikingly from what one normally expects to find and frequently encounters in memoirs of scholars and academics. Whereas most Americans are drawn to Italy as a museum of past glories and masterpieces, for Rosengarten, the museum, the archive, the literary canon stimulate meditations on the living material situations and conditions of people hankering for social justice and equity.
Joseph A. Buttigieg, University of Notre Dame

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At 3:51 pm, Anonymous Ethan Young said...

I worked with Frank on the magazine CrossRoads, a left dialogue effort in the 1990s. He was the kind of scholar whose work directly applied to the needs of activists. I admired him very much, and hope to uncover more of his work and put it to use.


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