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Leo Löwenthal (1900–1993)

Author of Literature, Popular Culture and Society

Includes the names: Leo Löwenthal, Leo Löwenthal

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Leo Löwenthal was born in Frankfurt, the son of assimilated German Jews. He grew up during the turbulent years of the Weimar Republic following World War I. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Frankfurt. In 1926, he joined the newly-founded Institute for Social Research -- also known as the Frankfurt School -- and became its leading expert on the sociology of literature and mass culture as well as the managing editor of its journal, the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung. Löwenthal and many of his colleagues fled Germany when the Nazis came to power in 1933. After a year in Switzerland, he came to the USA. He became a professor at Columbia University, and worked with the Office of War Information in Washington, DC. Although others returned to Frankfurt to re-establish the Institute after the war, Prof. Löwenthal chose to remain in the USA. After seven years as research director of the Voice of America, and another year at the Stanford Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences, he joined the Speech Department and then the Sociology Department at the University of California, Berkeley. He officially retired in 1968, but remained active in departmental and university affairs until the end of his life. Prof. Löwenthal's publications were collected during the 1980s, both in German and in English. They included Prophets of Deceit: A Study in the Techniques of the American Agitator (with Norbert Guterman, 1949), Literature and the Image of Man (1957) and Literature, Popular Culture, and Society (1961). His autobiography was published as An Unmastered Past in 1987. In the last decade of his life, Prof. Löwenthal was honored on both sides of the Atlantic. In Germany, he received the Distinguished Merit Cross in 1985, honorary doctorates from the University of Siegen, the Free University of Berlin, and the University of Hamburg, the Goethe Medal from the city of Frankfurt, and the Theodor Adorno Prize.
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