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William Phillips

PHILLIPS, WILLIAM (1907–2002), U.S. editor and writer. Born in New York, Phillips attended City College and earned a master's degree at New York University (1930). He completed some graduate work at Columbia while an instructor in English at NYU. Phillips is best known as a co-editor of arguably the most influential of the "little" magazines, the Partisan Review. Phillips and co-editor Philip *Rahv founded the Partisan Review in 1933 as the literary modernist organ of the John Reed Club. The criticism, poetry, and fiction that appeared in the magazine was intended at first to complement the more overtly political magazine New Masses. After nine published issues associated with the John Reed Club, PR broke with the organization because of ideological differences related to the Moscow Purge Trials. Phillips and Rahv, who had refused to subordinate their literary standards to Communist Party ideology, reestablished Partisan Review as an independent journal in December 1937. After breaking from the John Reed Club, PR remained committed for a period to independent Marxist, anti-Stalinist principles. Circulation of the magazine never topped 15,000, but its profound influence on American intellectual life is undeniable. Historians have described PR as intensely urban, anti-Stalinist with a Trotskyist bent, New York-dominated, and overwhelmingly Jewish. The magazine brought together, in Phillips's words, "writers committed to modernism and literary innovation, and radical social and political thinkers, most of whom were either non-Communist or anti-Communist." Phillips himself wrote for PR and other magazines (sometimes under the penname "Wallace Phelps"), and his memoir, A Partisan View, appeared in 1983, but he is better known as an editor who brought to the public the works of influential writers including Hannah *Arendt, Saul *Bellow, Clement Greenberg, Irving *Howe, Delmore *Schwartz, Lionel *Trilling, and many, many others. Although PR had lost its central place of influence by the 1960s (Rahv left the magazine in the late 1960s and died in 1973), Phillips and his second wife, Edith Kurzweil, continued to edit the magazine until his death in 2002. The final issue of Partisan Review, a tribute to Phillips, was published in 2003.


T.A. Cooney, The Rise of the New York Intellectuals: Partisan Review and Its Circle (1986); J.B. Gilbert, Writersand Partisans: A History of Literary Radicalism in America (1968); W. Phillips, A Partisan View: Five Decades of the Literary Life (1983); A.M. Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s (1987).