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Philip Roth and World Literature: Transatlantic Perspectives and Uneasy Passages By V ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Philip Roth and World Literature:


Transatlantic Perspectives
on the American Philip Roth

Velichka D. Ivanova

In his now-famous 1972 essay “Philip Roth Reconsidered,” literary critic Irving Howe argued that “[w]hen we speak of a writer’s personal culture we have in mind the ways in which a tradition, if absorbed into his work, can both release and control his creative energies” (73). Young Roth, whose literary debut Howe once praised but whom he criticized in 1972 for being limited in scope and interest, apparently failed to engage such a tradition. Indeed, for his widely acclaimed first works Goodbye, Columbus (1959) and Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), Roth drew primarily on the Jewish milieu of his childhood, which, in a recent echo to Howe’s argument, some critics have bluntly dismissed as “utterly parochial, time-bound, geographically closed” (Shivani).