Louis Menand (/ /; born January 21, 1952) is an American critic, essayist and professor, best known for his book The Metaphysical Club (2001), an intellectual and cultural history of late 19th and early 20th century America.
Life and career
Menand was born in Syracuse, New York, and raised around Boston, Massachusetts. His mother, Catherine (Shults) Menand, was a historian, who wrote a biography of Samuel Adams. His father, Louis Menand III, taught political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His grandfather and great-grandfather owned the Louis Menand House, located in Menands, New York, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The village of Menands is named after his great-grandfather, a 19th-century horticulturalist.
He thereafter taught at Princeton University and held staff positions at The New York Review of Books (contributing editor 1994–2001) and The New Republic (associate editor 1986–1987). He has contributed to The New Yorker since 1991 and remains a staff writer. In 1988 he was appointment as Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and in 1990 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He left CUNY to accept a post at Harvard in 2003. He has also taught at Columbia, Queens College, the University of Virginia School of Law.
He published his first book Discovering Modernism: T. S. Eliot and His Context, in 1987. His long-anticipated second book, The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America (2001), includes detailed biographical material on Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and John Dewey, and documents their roles in the development of the philosophy of pragmatism. It received the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for History, the 2002 Francis Parkman Prize, and The Heartland Prize for Non-Fiction. In 2002 Menand published American Studies, a collection of essays on prominent figures in American culture.
He is the Lee Simpkins Family Professor or Arts and Sciences and the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard University. His principal field of academic interest is 19th and 20th century American cultural history. He teaches literary theory and postwar cultural history at both the graduate and undergraduate level. At Harvard he helped co-found a freshmen course with content in literature and philosophy, Humanities 10: An Introductory Humanities Colloquium. He also served as co-chair on the Task Force on General Education at Harvard working on a new general education curriculum.
He received the National Humanities Medal in 2015.
- Menand, Louis (1987). Discovering Modernism : T. S. Eliot and his context. Oxford University Press.
- —, ed. (1996). The future of academic freedom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- —, ed. (1997). Pragmatism : a reader. New York: Vintage.
- — (2001). The Metaphysical Club : a story of ideas in America. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
- — (2002). American studies. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
- — (2010). The marketplace of ideas. New York: W. W. Norton.
Essays and reporting
- Menand, Louis (November 14, 2011). "Getting real". The Critics. A Critic at Large. The New Yorker. 87 (36): 76–83. Retrieved 2014-04-24. Reviews Gaddis, John Lewis. George F. Kennan : an American life. Penguin.
- — (July 2, 2012). "Silence, Exile, Punning: James Joyce's chance encounters", pp. 71–75.
- — (March 4, 2013). "How the Deal went down : saving democracy in the Depression". The Critics. Books. The New Yorker. 89 (3): 69–74. Retrieved 2015-05-11. Reviews Katznelson, Ira. Fear itself : the New Deal and the origins of our time. Liveright.
- — (July 8–15, 2013). "The color of law : voting rights and the Southern way of life". The Critics. A Critic at Large. The New Yorker. 89 (20): 80–89.
- — (September 30, 2013). "Nukes of hazard". The Critics. Books. The New Yorker. 89 (30): 76–80. Retrieved 2015-03-03. Reviews Schlosser, Eric. Command and Control. Penguin.
- — (October 21, 2013). "The Norman invasion : the crazy career of Norman Mailer". The Critics. A Critic at Large. The New Yorker. 89 (33): 86–95.
- — (March 24, 2014). "The de Man case : does a critic's past explain his criticism?". The Critics. A Critic at Large. The New Yorker. 90 (5): 87–93. Retrieved 2015-02-26.
- — (October 20, 2014). "Crooner in rights spat : are copyright laws too strict?". The Critics. A Critic at Large. The New Yorker. 90 (32): 84–89. Retrieved 2014-12-23.
- — (June 20, 2016). "What it is like to like : art and taste in the age of the Internet". The Critics. Books. The New Yorker. 92 (18): 73–76.
- — (October 10, 2016). "He's back : Karl Marx, yesterday and today". The Critics. A Critic at Large. The New Yorker. 92 (32): 90–97.
- — (May 1, 2017). "Op de stez : Norman Podhoretz's classic success story". The Critics. Books. The New Yorker. 93 (11): 63–69.
- Louis Menand, "Made in Vietnam: Edward Lansdale and the war over the war" (review of Max Boot, The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, Liveright / W.W. Norton & Co., 2018), The New Yorker, 26 February 2018, pp. 63–69.
- ___ (September 30, 2019). “Merit Badges: Is higher education an engine of social injustice?” The Critics. Books. The New Yorker. (75-80). Reviews Tough, Paul, The Years That Matter Most. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt., Markovitz, Daniel, The Meritocracy Trap. Penguin.
- "Big Think Interview With Louis Menand", bigthink.com, 26 April, 2010.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
- Louis Menand official website
- Online version is titled "Karl Marx, yesterday and today".
- Online version is titled "The book that scandalized the New York intellectuals".
- Louis Menand official website : recent articles, biography, books
- Harvard University Department of English faculty listing for Menand
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Menand's humorous exegesis of The Cat in the Hat on NPR's All Things Considered (link to Windows Media and RealMedia audio)
- Louis Menand on writing – (in the New Yorker)
- "Cat People: What Dr. Seuss really taught us" -(in the New Yorker)
- This Week in Media Rogues Article from The New York Observer about Louis Menand's review of "Wild Bill Donovan" in The New Yorker
- Letters to a Young Writer, Louis Menand to a letter, Narrative Magazine, (Fall 2010).
- Sun, Kevin, "Who is Louis Menand?", Harvard Crimson, October 20, 2011.
- Louis Menand on Reforming U.S. Universities from NPR's All Things Considered (Air Date: 1/18/10)
- Menand interview on The Metaphysical Club on All Things Considered (link to WM and RM audio)
- "New New York Intellectual: An Interview with Louis Menand" at the Wayback Machine (archived March 9, 2005) in the Minnesota Review, (June 1, 2001).
- Roberts, Russ (May 31, 2010). "Menand on Psychiatry". EconTalk. Library of Economics and Liberty.