Paul Goodman (writer)

Paul Goodman
Born September 9, 1911(1911-09-09)
New York City, U.S.
Died August 2, 1972 (aged 60)
North Stratford, New Hampshire, U.S.
Occupation Writer

Paul Goodman (September 9, 1911 – August 2, 1972) was an American sociologist, poet, writer, anarchist, and public intellectual. Goodman is now mainly remembered as the author of Growing Up Absurd (1960) and an activist on the pacifist Left in the 1960s and an inspiration to that era's student movement. He is less remembered as a co-founder of Gestalt Therapy in the 1940s and '50s.


[edit] Early life

Goodman was born in New York City to Barnett and Augusta Goodman, both immigrants. He had a Hebrew school education, and graduated first in his class at Townsend Harris High School.[1] [2] His brother Percival Goodman, with whom Paul frequently worked, was an architect especially noted for his many synagogue designs.[3]

As a child, Goodman freely roamed the streets and public libraries of his native New York City, experiences which later inspired his radical concept of "the educative city". He graduated from The City College of New York in 1932 and completed his Ph.D. work at the University of Chicago in 193[9?]. (He was not officially awarded his Ph.D. until 1953, for the dissertation which was later published by the University of Chicago as The Structure of Literature.)

[edit] Career

Goodman was a prolific writer of essays, fiction and poetry. Although he had been writing short stories since 1932, his first novel, The Grand Piano, was published in 1942.

In the mid-1940s, together with C. Wright Mills, he contributed to Politics, the journal edited during the 1940s by Dwight Macdonald.[4] In 1947, he published two books, Kafka's Prayer and Communitas, a classic study of urban design coauthored with his brother Percival Goodman. Fame came only with the 1960 publication of his Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System.

Goodman also knew and worked with other leading New York intellectuals, including Daniel Bell, Norman Mailer, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Norman Podhoretz, Mary McCarthy, Lionel Trilling, and Philip Rahv. In addition to Politics, his writings appeared in Partisan Review, The New Republic, Commentary, The New Leader, Dissent and The New York Review of Books.[5]

Goodman was strongly influenced by Otto Rank's "here-and-now" approach to psychotherapy, fundamental to Gestalt therapy, as well as Rank's post-Freudian book Art and Artist (1932). In the late 1940s, Fritz Perls asked Goodman to write up the notes which were to become the seminal work for the new therapy, Part II of Perls, Goodman, and Hefferline (1951) Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality. A year later, Goodman would become one of the Group of Seven - Fritz and Laura Perls, Isadore From, Goodman, Elliot Shapiro, Paul Weiss, Richard Kitzler - the founding members of the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy.

Goodman wrote on a wide variety of subjects; including education, Gestalt Therapy, city life and urban design, children's rights, politics, literary criticism, and many more. In an interview with Studs Terkel, Goodman said "I might seem to have a number of divergent interests – community planning, psychotherapy, education, politics – but they are all one concern: how to make it possible to grow up as a human being into a culture without losing nature. I simply refuse to acknowledge that a sensible and honorable community does not exist."

He was equally at home with the avant-garde and with classical texts, and his fiction often mixes formal and experimental styles. The style and subject matter of Goodman's short stories influenced those of Guy Davenport.

In 1967, Goodman's son Matthew died in a mountain climbing accident. Paul's friends claimed that he never recovered from the resulting grief, and his health began to deteriorate. He died of a heart attack at his farm in New Hampshire just before his 61st birthday.[6]

[edit] Views and opinions

While Goodman himself described his politics as anarchist, his love as bisexual, and his profession as that of "man of letters", Hayden Carruth wrote "Any page of Paul Goodman will give you not only originality and brilliance but wisdom – that is, something to think about. He is our peculiar, urban, twentieth-century Thoreau, the quintessential American mind of our time."

[edit] Bisexuality

The freedom with which he revealed, in print and in public, his homosexual life and loves (notably in a late essay, "Being Queer"[7]), proved to be one of the many important cultural springboards for the emerging gay liberation movement of the early 1970s. However, his own views ran counter to the modern construction of homosexuality; it was his view that sexual relationships between males were natural, normal, and healthy. In discussing his own sexual relationships, he acknowledged that public opinion would condemn him, but countered that "what is really obscene is the way our society makes us feel shameful and like criminals for doing human things that we really need."

[edit] Radical politics

After having been a strong advocate of the student movement during most of the 1960s, Goodman eventually became a staunch critic of the ideological harshness the New Left embraced toward the end of the decade. In New Reformation (1970), his tenth book of social criticism, he argued that the "alienation" and existential rage of 1960s youth had usurped all their worthwhile political goals (e.g., the Port Huron Statement), and that therefore their tactics had become destructive.[8] The book further situated the drama of the tumultuous 1960s in the larger context of what Goodman called "the disease of modern times".[8] In drawing this parallel between young people's socio-historical consciousness and their political activism, Goodman made an early contribution to the argument that the philosophical underpinnings of the New Left were largely informed by postwar disenchantment with Enlightenment conceptions of science, technology, truth, knowledge, and power relations.

For instance, after a hostile exchange with student radicals who had heckled him "heatedly and rudely" at a campus appearance in 1967, Goodman wrote, "suddenly I realized that they did not believe there was a nature of things. [To them] there was no knowledge but only the sociology of knowledge. They had learned so well that physical and sociological research is subsidized and conducted for the benefit of the ruling class that they were doubtful that there was such a thing as simple truth, for instance that the table was made of wood--maybe it was plastic imitation...I had imagined that the worldwide student protest had to do with changing political and moral institutions, and I was sympathetic to this. But I now saw that we had to do with a religious crisis. Not only all institutions but all learning had been corrupted by the Whore of Babylon, and there was no longer any salvation to be got from Works."[8]

After a life of revolutionary revelry and social criticism, Goodman's likening of the youth revolt in the 1960s to the Protestant Reformation of 1517 made up the crux of his belief about American modernity in the late 1960s: "It is evident that, at present, we are not going to give up the mass faith in scientific technology that is the religion of modern times; and yet we cannot continue with it, as it has been perverted. So I look for a 'New Reformation.'"[8]

Goodman participated at the 1967 Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation, held in London and coordinated by South African psychiatrist David Cooper. The Congress aimed at "creating a genuine revolutionary consciousness by fusing ideology and action on the levels of the individual and of mass society".[9] Goodman's views on politics, social psychology, and society could be usefully compared and contrasted with those of fellow attendees Herbert Marcuse and R. D. Laing, and with those of Norman O. Brown.

[edit] Quotations

  • "It is by losing ourselves in inquiry, creation & craft that we become something. Civilization is a continual gift of spirit: inventions, discoveries, insight, art. We are citizens, as Socrates would have said, & we have it available as our own. "
  • "We propose banning private cars from Manhattan Island ... Present congestion & parking are unworkable, & other proposed solutions are uneconomic, disruptive, unhealthy, nonurban, or impractical ..." - from "Banning Cars from Manhattan" (1961) by Paul & Percival Goodman
  • How well they flew together side by side
the Stars & Stripes my red & white & blue
& my Black Flag the sovereignty of no
man or law!
- Paul Goodman, in Noam Chomsky, For Reasons of State (1973)
  • "The issue is not whether people are 'good enough' for a particular type of society; rather it is a matter of developing the kind of social institutions that are most conducive to expanding the potentialities we have for intelligence, grace, sociability and freedom." - Paul Goodman (1964)

[edit] Complete works

  • Pieces of Three, with Meyer Liben and Edouard Roditi (Harrington Park, N.J.: 5 X 8 Press, 1942)
  • Art and Social Nature. (New York: Vinco Publishing Company, 1946)
  • Kafka's Prayer. (New York: Vanguard Press, 1947); reprinted (New York: Stonehill, 1976)
  • Communitas: Means of Livelihood and Ways of Life, with Percival Goodman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947); revised 2nd edition (New York: Vintage Books, 1960); revised 3rd edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990)
  • Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality. with Frederick S. Perls and Ralph Hefferline [volume two, "Novelty, Excitement, and Growth," by Goodman] (New York: Julian Press, 1951); reprinted (Highland, New York: The Gestalt Journal Press, 1994)
  • The Structure of Literature. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954)
  • Speaking and Language: Defence of Poetry. (New York: Random House, 1971)
  • Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System. (New York: Random House, 1960; London: Victor Gollancz, 1961)
  • Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals. (New York: Random House, 1962)
  • The Community of Scholars. (New York: Random House, 1962)
  • Drawing the Line. (New York: Random House, 1962)
  • The Society I Live In Is Mine. (New York: Horizon Press, 1962)
  • Compulsory Mis-education. (New York: Horizon Press, 1964)
  • Seeds of Liberation, edited by Goodman (New York: George Braziller, 1964)
  • People or Personnel. (New York: Random House, 1965)
  • The Moral Ambiguity of America. [Massey Lectures, Sixth Series] (Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1966); published in the U.S. as Like a Conquered Province: The Moral Ambiguity of America (New York: Random House, 1967)
  • Five Years. With an Introduction by Harold Rosenberg. (New York: Brussel & Brussel, 1966
  • The Politics of Being Queer. 1969.
  • New Reformation: Notes of a Neolithic Conservative. (New York: Random House, 1970)
  • Little Prayers and Finite Experience. (New York: Harper & Row, 1972)
  • The Writings of Paul Goodman, edited by David Ray and Taylor Stoehr, special double issue of New Letters, 42 (Winter/Spring 1976)
  • Drawing the Line: Political Essays, edited by Taylor Stoehr (New York: Free Life Editions, 1977)
  • Creator Spirit Come!: Literary Essays, edited by Taylor Stoehr (New York: Free Life Editions, 1977)
  • Nature Heals: Psychological Essays, edited by Taylor Stoehr (New York: Free Life Editions, 1977)
  • Finite Experience and Crazy Hope, edited by Taylor Stoehr (Cleveland: Gestalt Institute of Cleveland Press, 1994) [augmented edition of Little Prayers and Finite Experience]
  • Decentralizing Power: Paul Goodman–s Social Criticism, edited by Taylor Stoehr (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1994)
  • Format and Anxiety: Paul Goodman Critiques the Media, edited by Taylor Stoehr (Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1995)
  • The Grand Piano; or, The Almanac of Alienation. (San Francisco: Colt Press, 1942) [volume one of The Empire City (1959)]
  • The State of Nature. (New York: Vanguard Press, 1946) [volume two of The Empire City (1959)]
  • The Copernican Revolution. (Saugatuck, Conn.: 5 X 8 Press, 1946)
  • The Break-Up of Our Camp and Other Stories. (Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1949)
  • The Dead of Spring. (Glen Gardner, N.J.: Libertarian Press, 1950) [volume three of The Empire City (1959)]
  • Parents' Day (Saugatuck, Conn.: 5 X 8 Press, 1951); reprinted (Santa Barbara, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1985)
  • The Empire City. (Indianapolis & New York; Bobbs-Merrill, 1959); reprinted (New York: Vintage, 1977); reprint (Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 2001)
  • Our Visit to Niagara. (New York: Horizon Press, 1960)
  • Making Do. (New York: Macmillan, 1963)
  • Adam and His Works: Collected Stories. (New York: Vintage Books, 1968)
  • The Break-Up of Our Camp, Stories 1932-1935, volume one of The Collected Stories, edited by Taylor Stoehr (Santa Barbara, CA.: Black Sparrow Press, 1978)
  • A Ceremonial, Stories 1936-1940, volume two of The Collected Stories, edited by Taylor Stoehr (Santa Barbara, CA.: Black Sparrow Press, 1978)
  • The Facts of Life, Stories 1940-1949, volume three of The Collected Stories, edited by Taylor Stoehr (Santa Barbara, CA.: Black Sparrow Press, 1979)
  • Don Juan: or, The Continuum of the Libido, edited by Taylor Stoehr (Santa Barbara, CA.: Black Sparrow Press, 1979)
  • The Galley to Mytilene, Stories 1949-1960, volume four of The Collected Stories, edited by Taylor Stoehr (Santa Barbara, CA.: Black Sparrow Press, 1980)
Poetry & Plays
  • Stop-Light: Five Dance Poems. (Harrington Park, N.J.: 5 X 8 Press, 1941)
  • The Facts of Life. (New York: Vanguard Press, 1945; London: Editions Poetry London [Nicholson & Watson], 1946)
  • The Lordly Hudson: Collected Poems. (New York: Macmillan, 1962)
  • Three Plays: The Young Disciple, Faustina, Jonah. (New York: Random House, 1965)
  • Hawkweed: Poems. (New York: Random House, 1967)
  • North Percy. (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1968)
  • The Open Look, with photographs by Stefan Congrat-Butlar (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1969)
  • Tragedy & Comedy: Four Cubist Plays. (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1970)
  • Homespun of Oatmeal Gray: Poems. (New York: Random House, 1970)
  • Collected Poems, edited by Taylor Stoehr. With a memoir by George Dennison. (New York: Random House, 1973)

[edit] Secondary literature

  • Stoehr, Taylor, Here, Now, Next: Paul Goodman and the Origins of Gestalt Therapy.
  • Widmer, Kingsely, 1980. Paul Goodman. Twayne.
  • Nicely, Tom, 1979. Adam & His Work: a bibliography of sources by and about Paul Goodman (1911-1972). Scarecrow Press.
  • "On Paul Goodman", in "Under the Sign of Saturn: Essays" by Susan Sontag (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1980)

[edit] References

  1. ^ Leonard Rogoff, "Paul Goodman" in Joel Shatzky & Michael Taub, eds., Contemporary Jewish-American Novelists (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997), ISBN 978-0-313-29462-4, p.128 (excerpt available at Google Books.
  2. ^ Biography of Paul Goodman in Jules Chametzky, John Felstiner, Hilene Flanzbaum eds.,Jewish American Literature: a Norton Anthology (W. W. Norton & Company, 2000), ISBN 978-0-393-04809-4, p.522 (excerpt available at Google Books.)
  3. ^ Michael Z. Wise, "America's Most Prolific Synagogue Architect," The Forward, March 9, 2001.
  4. ^ TIME April 4, 1994 Volume 143, No. 14 - "Biographical sketch of Dwight Macdonald" by John Elson (Accessed 4 December 2008)
  5. ^ John B. Judis, "The Relevance of Paul Goodman" (retrieved November 28, 2009).
  6. ^ Henthoff, Nat; et al. (Winter 1972/1973), "The Legacy of Paul Goodman", Change (Heldref Publications) 4 (10),, retrieved June 9, 2010. 
  7. ^ Goodman, Paul (1994), "Being Queer", in Stoehr, Taylor, Crazy Hope and Finite Experience: Final Essays of Paul Goodman, Routledge, p. 103, ISBN 088163266X, 
  8. ^ a b c d Goodman, Paul (1970), New Reformation: Notes of a Neolithic Conservative, Random House, 
  9. ^ Cooper, David, ed. (1968) ([dead link]Scholar search), The Dialectics of Liberation, Penguin, .

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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