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Casal, Lourdes (5 Apr. 1938–1 Feb. 1981), poet, literary critic, social psychologist, and political activist, was born Lourdes Emilia Irene de la Caridad Casal y Valdés in Havana, Cuba, the daughter of two professional parents, Pedro Casal, a doctor in medicine and a dentist, and Emilia Valdés, an elementary school teacher. Of mixed heritage, Casal’s family included black, white, and Chinese ancestry....

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Cross, Wilbur Lucius (10 April 1862–05 October 1948), scholar and governor of Connecticut, was born in Gurleyville, Connecticut, the son of Samuel Cross, a farmer, miller, and manufacturer, and Harriet Maria Gurley. With considerable accuracy, Cross dubbed himself a “Connecticut Yankee.” His family had lived in the state for more than two hundred years. From early on, he embraced the political faith of his father and by age eight had proudly proclaimed to a local politician in Gurleyville, “I am a Democrat” (Cross, p. 35)....

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Lewisohn, Ludwig (30 May 1883–31 December 1955), writer and translator, was born to acculturated Jewish parents, Minna Eloesser and Jacques Lewisohn, in Berlin. His father, a ne’er-do-well businessman, settled the family in a South Carolina village, where Minna Lewisohn had relatives, in 1890. But Lewisohn spent most of his childhood in Charleston where, he recalled, he strove to “forget his Jewish and his German past” and be accepted as “an American, a Southerner, and a Christian.” Graduating in 1901 from the College of Charleston with both a B.A. and an M.A., he began graduate studies in English literature at Columbia University in New York City, where in 1903 he earned another M.A. In New York he began to affirm his German and, ultimately, his Jewish origins. He was plagued by the anti-Semitism and xenophobia of American university life at that time, but as instructor of German at the University of Wisconsin (1910–1911) and subsequently as professor of German language and literature at Ohio State University (1911–1919) he established his credentials as a prime interpreter of modern European, especially German, literature....

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James Russell Lowell. Engraving, c. 1894, from a drawing by S. W. Rowse, 1855. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100831).

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Lowell, James Russell (22 February 1819–12 August 1891), author and diplomat, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Lowell, a liberal Congregational minister, and Harriet Brackett Spence. Among New Englanders who were apt to take ancestry seriously, the Lowell family was already firmly established in the region’s ecclesiastical and legal annals. During the nineteenth century the Lowell name became synonymous with manufacturing wealth and State Street trusts, but Charles Lowell’s descendants benefited little from this tradition. Their area of prominence was in literature; both James Russell Lowell’s sister Mary Lowell Putnam and brother ...

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Ripley, George (03 October 1802–04 July 1880), reform writer, literary reviewer, and communalist, was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts, the son of Jerome Ripley, a businessman, and Sarah Franklin. After attending private academies in the area, in 1819 Ripley went on to Harvard, where his personal and philosophical education was tumultuous. He tried desperately to hold onto the conservativism his parents had encouraged, but he was also attracted to liberal ideas in social reform and theology. When his transformation did not happen quickly enough to suit his classmates, he was ridiculed in one of Harvard’s student riots as “Ripley the pious, fickle as the wind, / For nine times an hour he changes his mind.” When he entered Harvard’s divinity school in 1823, Ripley was still trying to reconcile his inherited Calvinist beliefs with the new views that saw humanity’s inward nature as the source of all beauty and truth....