[Marxism] Frank Rosengarten

George Snedeker george.snedeker at verizon.net
Fri Aug 8 12:49:33 MDT 2014


Sent on behalf of Walter Isaac Cohen:

I'm grateful for this remembrance of Frank Rosengarten (1927-2014), who was my first cousin once removed (first cousin of my mother).  Below I paste in the obituary from the NY Times, and you can find out more about Frank's prolific career by Googgling him and then going to his Amazon and Barnes & Noble pages. There you'll learn that he wrote books on Pratolini, the Italian Antifascist Press, Gramsci, Leopardi, CLR James, and Proust; composed a memoir, Through Partisan Eyes; edited Gramsci's letters; co-founded the journal Socialism and Democracy; and much more.  A high percentage of this work occurred after he retired.

I saw Frank most often as a child growing up in the metropolitan area of New York.  There were lots of cousins, and they were remarkably close to each other. It was hard to keep the names straight for a small child: all the men of that generation seemed to be named Frank or Elliot.  But Frank began to assume more distinctive features for me when I decided to follow in his footsteps and become a literary critic.  Thereafter, I saw him irregularly-at family gatherings and academic conferences.  One of the former was a party for about 15 people that my parents threw, at which they and I-I discovered to my delight-were the only three who had not published any books.  I recall with equal  fondness an MLA convention in NY at which I must have given a paper, after which I introduced Frank to my former dissertation director, Louise Clubb, also an Italianist, whereupon the two of them began ostentatiously jabbering about me in Italian, confident that my pathetic "command" of that language would prevent me from understanding what they were saying.

After Frank retired from CUNY, he returned to the school as a doctoral student in French, completing his degree and publishing his thesis on The Writings of the Young Marcel Proust (2001), a work I have used in my own writing.  Dating from after this period-indeed, mostly from the current decade-are the completion of his books on James (2008), Leopardi (2012), and Gramsci (2013), as well as his memoir (2014).

I last saw Frank in December 2011, at a memorial service for my mother in Ithaca, where I then lived and worked, and where she had moved some years earlier.  Frank's wife Lucy had just died a few days before, and he was of course distraught.  So I was particularly touched that he and his sister Jo made the trek to remember my mother.  At the reception, I introduced my longtime friend and colleague Jonathan Culler to Frank, and they immediately launched into a discussion of a writer of mutual interest, the early nineteenth-century Italian poet Leopardi, long a figure of fascination for Italian leftist intellectuals (Gramsci, Timpanaro, Negri).  I was surprised to learn at the time that Frank had just completed a book on Leopardi, and would have been even more astonished if I'd known that there were two more to come right after.

George Snedeker's statement hits the right note: Frank was a genuinely modest gentleman, and I agree that the combination of that modesty with leftist politics is uncommon-in his generation as well as after.  Having said that, I see Frank sociologically as part of the final generation of New York Jewish leftist intellectuals.  By that I don't mean that there are no longer leftist Jewish intellectuals, in New York or elsewhere.  There are obviously many of them.  What I do mean is that the category no longer has much meaning.  The passing of this intellectual constellation to me has more good than bad about it (in the sense of a cultural opening up), but it is nonetheless a passing, and I both mourn my cousin and honor his generation and its immediate predecessors.

Walter Cohen

Here's the Times obituary:

ROSENGARTEN--Frank, was a truly extraordinary person. He fell in love with Italy as a young man and devoted the rest of his life to studies related to its culture and politics, receiving a PhD from Columbia University in the 1950's in Italian. He wrote many books and numerous articles on important people in the anti-fascist press there. This passion tied in with his longtime interest in socialism, and he was a co-founder and an editor of the journal Socialism and Democracy. Gramsci became a special focus of his work and he translated Gramsci's letters from prison. A professor of Italian studies at several universities, he was Professor Emeritus at Queens College. But his interests covered many subjects unrelated to Italian, and included a love of theater, movies, and music and books, which he devoured on many subjects. But more important than his many accomplishments, including receiving his second Doctorate, in his retirement, in French from The CUNY graduate Center. His dissertation on the young Proust received an award. More importantly was his gift for friendship. His love for and loyalty to friends and family were total. If you had the rare privilege of being part of his circle, you had a friend and mentor for life. He adored his children Dan and Lydia, and his late son, Philip as well as his grandchildren, Melina and Emi, and his sister Jo. He was also a devoted husband of over 30 years to his late wife, Lucille. He was irreplaceable and his absence will leave a big hole in all their hearts. A memorial service will be held at the Casa Italiana in the fall, and there will be a shiva on Thursday night at his apartment, 160 East 84th. He will leave a hole in peoples hearts and lives. Published in The New York Times on Aug. 6, 2014 

Walter Cohen
Professor, English
3187 Angell Hall
435 South State Street
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1003
(734) 764-6330
(Professor Emeritus, Comparative Literature)
(Cornell University)

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