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Fantasies of the New ClassIdeologies of Professionalism in Post-World War II American Fiction$
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Stephen Schryer

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231157575

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231157575.001.0001

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Mary McCarthy’s Field Guide to U.S. Intellectuals

Mary McCarthy’s Field Guide to U.S. Intellectuals

Tradition and Modernization Theory in Birds of America

(p.83) 3 Mary McCarthy’s Field Guide to U.S. Intellectuals
Fantasies of the New Class

Stephen Schryer

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses Mary McCarthy's critique of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which is reflected in her novel Birds of America. The novel describes the maturation and disillusionment of Peter Levi—an idealistic young man with an upper-middle-class, professional background who spent his junior year at the Sorbonne in the fall of 1964. Through the course of its narrative, the text offers a crucial metacommentary on the new-class fantasies of the post-World War II era at a time when those fantasies were being put under pressure by the shifting political landscape of the 1960s. It scrutinizes the basic, postwar distinction between traditional humanists and establishment social scientists, revealing many of the underlying affinities between the two positions.

Keywords:   Mary McCarthy, Birds of America, Vietnam War, new-class fantasies, humanists, social scientists

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