If hailed by the critics, exhibits of modern art have, all too often, bemused, bothered, and bewildered the average viewer. What the expert proclaims as a masterpiece is, in the eye of the ordinary beholder, merely a mess. This is particularly true in the case of nonrepresentational art, the subject of Oscar Mandel’s contemplative yet controversial essay. To Mr. Mandel, such art is “minor art,” whose greatest fault lies in “its failure to engage . . . the moral interest.” Mr. Mandel is Professor of Humanities at the California Institute of Technology and author of more than a dozen books, including A Definition of Tragedy and his two-volume Collected Plays, “ I wear two hats,” he commented recently.”Under one hat I write on aesthetics and publish translations of plays of interest to specialists and presented with scholarly introductions and apparatus, and under the other I am a playwright, poet, and fabulist—what they call a “creative writer” nowadays.” He describes his VQR essay as “a sort of pendant to an article entitled “Dissonant Music Sixty Years After, ” which appeared in the South Atlantic Quarterly in 1973.”
Art in all its aspects and eras has long been the concern of Dore Ashton, one of the country’s foremost authorities on the subject. Currently a professor of art history at The Cooper Union in New York City, Ms. Ashton is a former art editor of the New York Times and has published articles in more than 70 journals throughout the world. She received the Mather Award for Art Criticism in 1963 and was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1964. Among her numerous books are Picasso on Art, A Reading of Modem Art, Modem American Sculpture, and The Unknown Shore. G. Edward White, a professor of law at the University of Virginia, came to know the late Chief Justice Earl Warren when he served under him as a law clerk. He is now writing a book on Mr. Warren, which is scheduled to be published by Oxford University Press in 1981. Mr. White’S published works include The American Judicial Tradition and Patterns of American Legal Thought. The latter work, published in 1978, was one of two books recently to receive the American Bar Association’s 1979 Gavel Award. Mr. White received his doctorate in American studies from Yale and his law degree from Harvard.
Jesse Bier has long been a professor of English at the University of Montana, but his home address suggests an abode right out of The Call of the Wild. He lives on Wildcat Road in the East Rattlesnake section of Missoula. An authority on American literature, Mr. Bier is an accomplished fiction writer as well. His novels include Trial at Bannock and Year of the Cougar, and his short story, “The Man on the Bicycle,” appeared in the Autumn 1976 issue of VQR.
Connie Martin was born on Lopez Island in Washington’s Puget Sound, where she has lived most of her life. After receiving an M. A. in creative writing from Washington State University, she turned her talents to carpentry in 1975 and later formed her own construction company. She dissolved her company last year and sailed from Puget Sound to lower Mexico, where she learned Spanish. She is now touring the United States giving poetry readings.
Harold H. Kolb, Jr. , an associate professor of English at the University of Virginia, is an authority on 19th-century American novelists, particularly Mark Twain and W. D. Howells. He is the author of The Illusion of Life: American Realism as a Literary Form and has recently completed a writing guide which Harcourt Brace Jovanovich will publish this fall.
Kent Nelson was a recipient of the 1975 Emily Clark Balch Fiction Prize for his short story, “The Humpbacked Bird.” MR, NELSON grew up in Colorado and graduated from Yale and from Harvard Law School, but he soon found his interest was in literature rather than law, and he has been writing for the past decade. A collection of his stories entitled The Tennis Player was published by the University of Illinois Press in late 1977, and another collection, The Straight Man, was issued by Black Lizard Books in 1978.
Poet, novelist, and short story writer, Maxine Kumin graduated from Radcliffe in 1946 and has been writing ever since. Her book of poems, Up Country, received the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her novels include The Privilege, The Wonderful Babies of 1809, and The Designated Heir.
Unlike the prolific Mr. Nelson and the versatile Mrs. Kumin, Charles Hammer has previously published only one story, “People Hell Bent,” in the Kansas Quarterly. A former newspaperman, Mr. Hammer joined the Kansas City Star as a reporter in 1958 and spent the next 14 years there.”I worked 14 years in the same building where Hemingway worked six months,” he noted not so long ago.”He [Hemingway] said newspaper work doesn’t hurt a fiction writer if he doesn’t stay too long. I may well have stayed too long. . . . But all 14 years of it was good work, the next best thing to writing novels.” He currently has a novel “being peddled among the publishers.”
Robert Mazzocco, a resident of New York City, writes frequently for the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker. His first book of poetry will be published shortly by Knopf, and his first book of essays is due to appear next year from Random House.
Joyce Carol Gates is perhaps best known for her numerous novels and short stories, but she is also a poet. Her most recent novel is Son of the Morning, and she is presently teaching at Princeton. She is to be an editor of The Best American Short Stories 1979, and one of her own short sto ries is scheduled to appear in VQR’s Winter 1980 issue.
A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, Julia Mishkin resides in New York City and spent last fall at the Cummington Community of the Arts in Massachusetts.
Merrill Oliver is another young poet who also lives in New York. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College.
Charles F. Baldwin began his long diplomatic career when he joined the U. S. Foreign Commerce Service in 1927. His numerous posts have included Oslo, Trieste, London, Singapore, and Sydney. Mr. Baldwin was the American Ambassador to Malaysia from 1961 to 1964. He then became the first Diplomat-in-Residence at the University of Virginia, where he was a member of the faculty from 1964 to 1969. He has been executive director of the Virginia Asian Studies Consortium since 1966.
Fedwa Malti-douglas, a native of Lebanon, is the author of numerous studies on Medieval Arabic literature and related subjects. She holds a Ph. D. from U. C. L. A. and is an assistant professor of Arabic at the University of Virginia. A former Chercheur at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, she is also a member of the editorial board of the Cahiers d’Onomastique Arabe.
Nathan A. Scott, Jr. is Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of English at the University of Virginia. Among his numerous books are Mirrors of Man in Existentialism (1978), The Poetry of Civic Virtue (1976), Three American Moralists—Mailer, Bellow, Trilling (1973), and The Wild Prayer of Longing: Poetry and the Sacred (1971).
An assistant professor of English at The Citadel, Philip W. Leon has published articles on William Styron and Thomas Wolfe in the Southern Literary Journal. His book on Mr. Styron was published last year by Greenwood Press.
Jeffrey Meyers, a professor of English at the University of Colorado, has written chapters on Thomas Mann in his books, Painting and the Novel and Homosexuality and Literature. He has just published a biography of Katherine Mansfield and now has a Guggenheim Fellowship to write the life of Wyndham Lewis.
An authority on William Faulkner, David Wyatt received his undergraduate degree from Yale and the Ph. D. from the University of California, Berkeley. An assistant professor of English at the University of Virginia, he recently completed a critical study of modern American and
British authors, Prodigal Sons: A Study in Authorship and Authority, which has been accepted for publication by Johns Hopkins University Press.
Stephen Corey teaches at the University of Florida. He has recently completed work on his first book-length manuscript of poems, and he is currently finishing a book on the complete poetry of Stephen Spender. He is the co-editor of The Devil’s Millhopper, a poetry magazine.
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