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Louis Menand

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Louis Menand
Born (1952-01-21) January 21, 1952 (age 72)
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
  • Critic
  • essayist
  • professor
Academic background
Academic work
InstitutionsHarvard University
Notable worksThe Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America

Louis Menand (/ˈli məˈnɑːnd/;[1] born January 21, 1952) is an American critic, essayist, and professor who wrote the Pulitzer-winning book The Metaphysical Club (2001), an intellectual and cultural history of late 19th- and early 20th-century America.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Menand was born in Syracuse, New York, and raised around Boston, Massachusetts. His mother, Catherine (Shults) Menand, was a historian who wrote a biography of Samuel Adams. His father, Louis Menand III, taught political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His grandfather and great-grandfather owned the Louis Menand House, located in Menands, New York, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.[3] The village of Menands is named after his great-grandfather, a 19th-century horticulturist.

A 1973 graduate of Pomona College,[4] Menand attended Harvard Law School for one year (1973–1974) before he left to earn Master of Arts (1975) and PhD (1980) degrees in English from Columbia University.

He thereafter taught at Princeton University and held staff positions at The New York Review of Books (contributing editor 1994–2001) and The New Republic (associate editor 1986–1987). He has contributed to The New Yorker since 1991 and remains a staff writer. In 1988 he was appointed a Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and in 1990 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He left CUNY to accept a post in the English Department at Harvard University in 2003. He has also taught at Columbia, Queens College, the University of Virginia School of Law.[5]

He published his first book, Discovering Modernism: T. S. Eliot and His Context, in 1987. His second book, The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America (2001), includes detailed biographical material on Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and John Dewey, and documents their roles in the development of the philosophy of pragmatism. It received the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for History, the 2002 Francis Parkman Prize, and The Heartland Prize for Non-Fiction. In 2002 Menand published American Studies, a collection of essays on prominent figures in American culture.

He is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English at Harvard. In 2018 he was appointed for a 5-year term to the Lee Simpkins Family professorship of Arts and Sciences.[6] His principal field of academic interest is 19th and 20th century American cultural history. He teaches literary theory and postwar cultural history at both the graduate and undergraduate level. At Harvard he helped co-found a freshman course with content in literature and philosophy, Humanities 10: An Introductory Humanities Colloquium. He also served as co-chair on the Task Force on General Education at Harvard working on a new general education curriculum.[5]

In consultation with the National Endowment for the Humanities, President Barack Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal in 2015.[7]

In 2021, Menand's book The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War was published. Mark Grief's review in The Atlantic described the book as a "monumental new study of cold war culture," covering "art, literature, music, and thought from 1945 to 1965."[8]



  • Menand, Louis (1987). Discovering Modernism: T. S. Eliot and His Context. Oxford University Press.
  • —, ed. (1996). The Future of Academic Freedom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • —, ed. (1997). Pragmatism: A Reader. New York: Vintage.
  • — (2001). The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. ISBN 9780374199630.
  • — (2002). American Studies. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. ISBN 9780374104344.
  • — (2010). The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 9780393062755.
  • — (2021). The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 978-0374722913.[a][b]

Essays and reporting[edit]


  1. ^ Menand, Louis (2021-04-20). The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-72291-3.
  2. ^ "The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War by Louis Menand". The Objective Standard. 2021-04-13. Retrieved 2021-04-15.
  3. ^ Online version is titled "When the C.I.A. duped college students".
  4. ^ Online version is titled "Karl Marx, yesterday and today".
  5. ^ Online version is titled "The book that scandalized the New York intellectuals".
  6. ^ Online version is titled "How baseball players became celebrities".
  7. ^ Online version is titled "The making of the New Left".
  8. ^ Online version is titled "Was Rudy Giuliani Always So Awful?".


  1. ^ "Big Think Interview With Louis Menand", bigthink.com, 26 April 2010.
  2. ^ Alexis Tonti, and Louis Menand, “Louis Menand Reaches Critical Mass.” Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art no. 48, 2011, pp. 72–85. online
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  4. ^ "Starr Named to Academy". Pomona College Magazine. Pomona College. 24 June 2020. Retrieved 29 August 2020.
  5. ^ a b Louis Menand official website
  6. ^ Daniel D'Onofrio (April 3, 2018). "Four scholars win Arts and Sciences Professorships". The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  7. ^ Jill Radsken (September 15, 2016). "Menand wins National Humanities Medal". The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  8. ^ Greif, Mark (2021-05-05). "The Opportunists". The Atlantic. ISSN 2151-9463. Retrieved 2024-03-16.

External links[edit]