Frank Rosengarten’s Through Partisan Eyes is a remarkably powerful antidote to the pervasive view of Italy as a museum. His memoir brings poignantly into relief a vibrant scene of intellectuals (in the capacious definition of the term that encompasses scholars, artists, and many others who help shape a society’s self-representation and its broader world view) grappling with urgent social and political issues of national and international import. From as far back as his graduate student years at Columbia University, through the decades he spent as a university professor, to his current activities as a remarkably productive independent scholar, Rosengarten’s thinking, research, and writing have always been ineluctably intertwined with a deep concern for social justice and what in today’s parlance one would term the plight of the subalterns. He has never adopted the stance of the scholar gazing at his/her object of study with aesthetic detachment or moral indifference — nor has he ever tried to. It is, precisely and paradoxically, because he views and engages the world around him “through partisan eyes” that Rosengarten’s recollections of and reflections on his life, career, friendships and encounters differ refreshingly and, often, strikingly from what one normally expects to find and frequently encounters in memoirs of scholars and academics. Whereas most Americans are drawn to Italy as a museum of past glories and masterpieces, for Rosengarten, the museum, the archive, the literary canon stimulate meditations on the living material situations and conditions of people hankering for social justice and equity.
Queens College, United States