Isaac Louis Rosenfeld, (b. March 10, 1918, d. July 15, 1956), was a Chicago-born writer, critic, and university professor. Rosenfeld's only published novel, Passage from Home, echoes his upbringing in a lower-middle class Jewish household on the West Side of Chicago. Following his mother's death during the 1918 flu epidemic, Rosenfeld was largely raised by his stepmother and aunts, Dora and Rae. A sickly but precocious child, Rosenfeld demonstrated a keen intellect and verbal talent from an early age.
He attended the University of Chicago in the 1930s where his brilliance and humor made him the beloved center of a close-knit circle of literary intellectuals that included Saul Bellow and Oliver Tarcov. He studied under Eliseo Vivas and Rudolph Carnap, and in 1937 won the John Billings Fisk Prize for a group of lyrical poems. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1939 and his Master of Arts degree in 1941. That same year he married fellow University of Chicago student Vasiliki Sarantakis, and moved to New York City where he entered a graduate program in philosophy at New York University.
Rosenfeld left his studies at New York University in 1941 and began writing in earnest. He quickly rose to prominence in the New York literary scene, joining a group of writers that included Saul Bellow, Delmore Schwartz, Alfred Kazin, Irving Howe, Leslie Fiedler, and Robert Warshow who contributed regularly to the Partisan Review, The Nation, Commentary, The Kenyon Review, and The New Republic. Rosenfeld was made assistant literary editor of The New Republic, a position he resigned in the spring of 1944 to work on a barge in the New York harbor. His work as a barge captain was short-lived, and he was appointed the first literary editor of The New Leader in 1946. Rosenfeld was at his most prolific in the 1940s, publishing numerous short stories, reviews, and essays. Dial Press published his novel, A Passage From Home, in 1946. He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction in 1947. Rosenfeld and his wife also had two children during this time: a daughter, Eleni, born in 1943 and a son, George, born in 1947.
Rosenfeld's marriage ended in divorce in 1951, and he left New York for a teaching position at the University of Minnesota where he joined a faculty that included Bellow, John Berryman, and Allen Tate. In 1954 he returned to Chicago to teach literature at the University of Chicago. He lived on the Near North Side of the city, and died in his home of a heart attack in 1956. A collection of Rosenfeld's essays and literary criticism, Age of Enormity: Life and Writing in the Forties and Fifties, was published posthumously in 1962. A collection of his short stories, Alpha and Omega, was published in 1966, and a third anthology of his work, Preserving the Hunger, was released in 1988.
From the guide to the Rosenfeld, Isaac. Papers, 1926-1983, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)