The test and the use of man’s education is that
he finds pleasure in the exercise of his mind.
We salute Professor Barzun on his birthday for his many contributions to American education, scholarship, and letters. His connection to Columbia University, where he graduated first in his class in 1927, lasted for more than 50 years. After receiving his Ph.D., he taught history, helped create the field of cultural history, and served as dean of the graduate faculties, dean of faculties, and provost. He and Lionel Trilling taught Columbia’s Great Books course for many years. His honors include the Gold Medal for Criticism from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded in 2003. He has written or edited more than 40 books, on subjects ranging from William James to race to rhetoric and language to music and art to detective fiction to the nature of the university. His book From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present, published in 2000, was both widely praised and a bestseller.
We thank him for his long relationship with The American Scholar, where he served on the editorial board from 1945 to 1976, one of only three “permanent” members of the board in its 76-year history. His first article in these pages, “To the Rescue of Romanticism,” was published in 1940, and his most recent one, “The Scholar in Distant Perspective,” in 2004. He wrote a stern letter for our “Reader Replies” department as recently as 2006.
Of his more than 50 contributions to the magazine, we have made three available in our online archive. In addition to his first article defending Romanticism, we offer his “Meditations on the Literature of Spying” (1965) and “The Cradle of Modernism”(1990).