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Arvin, Newton (23 August 1900–22 March 1963), literary critic and educator, was born Frederick Newton Arvin, Jr., in Valparaiso, Indiana, the son of Frederick Newton Arvin, Sr., an insurance agent often away on business, and Jessie Hawkins. Arvin was rather dominated by his mother, grandmother, and four sisters, and was unfortunately regarded by his jeering father as weak and effeminate. After graduating from his local high school, he attended Harvard University (where he was greatly influenced by ...

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Bacon, Leonard (26 May 1887–01 January 1954), poet, literary critic, and teacher, was born in Solvay, New York, the son of Nathaniel Terry Bacon, a chemical engineer, and Helen Hazard. Bacon led a sheltered life at his mother’s familial estate in Peace Dale, Rhode Island. His parents enrolled him in 1898 in St. George’s at Newport, where he spent seven years preparing to matriculate at Yale, following in the footsteps not only of his father but of some twenty other relatives. Bacon gives candid insight into his college years, remembering colleagues and professors in an amiable light though remarking that “with the exception of English and German, I think we were not particularly well taught, or rather that the conception of teaching was poor” ( ...

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Baker, Carlos Heard (05 May 1909–18 April 1987), educator, author, and literary critic, was born in Biddeford, Maine, the son of Arthur Baker and Edna Heard. He grew up in what he called a “yankee and the nineteenth century German” tradition and had a great passion for literature even as a child. While still a college student, he published a collection of poems, ...

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Beach, Joseph Warren (14 January 1880–13 August 1957), educator, literary critic, and poet, was born in Gloversville, New York, the son of Eugene Beach, a physician, and Sarah Jessup Warren. After graduating from a public high school there, he attended the University of Minnesota, where his uncle Cyrus Northrop was president. He earned his B.A. in English in 1900 and moved on to Harvard University, where he received his M.A. in 1902 and his Ph.D. in 1907, both in English. At Harvard Beach studied under philosopher ...

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Brooks, Cleanth (16 October 1906–10 May 1994), teacher, critic, and scholar, was born in Murray, Kentucky, the son of Cleanth Brooks, Sr., an Episcopalian minister, and Bessie Lee Witherspoon. The family soon moved to Tennessee where his father served a number of parishes near Memphis. Despite their peripatetic lifestyle, Cleanth’s parents helped their shy, precocious son to find the stability that he needed by encouraging in him a devotion to the great literature of the world. Eventually, Cleanth attended the Mc Tyeire School, where, in addition to the standard academic fare of the era, he learned Greek and Latin and continued the education in classical literature that had begun at age five with his father’s present of a collections of tales from the ...

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Clifford, James Lowry (24 February 1901–07 April 1978), biographer, literary critic, and professor of literature, was born in Evansville, Indiana, the son of George Clifford, a businessman and amateur astronomer, and Emily Orr. In 1918 he attended Wabash College in nearby Crawfordsville, where he studied science, graduating in 1923 with an A.B. and Phi Beta Kappa honors. Two years later he received a B.S. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After several years in business back in Evansville, managing the manufacture of railroad coal cars, he relocated to Tucson, Arizona, where he taught mathematics, polo, and English at a preparatory school. Discovering in his teaching a love of literature, he entered the graduate program in English at Columbia University in 1931 and gained his M.A. the next year....

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Engle, Paul (12 Oct. 1908–22 March 1991), poet, literary critic, and educator, was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the son of Thomas Allen, a horse trader, and Evelyn (Reinheimer) Engle. He was educated at local schools, helped his father in the livery stable, and worked as a newsboy selling papers on the streets, a carrier boy, a chauffeur, a gardener, and, for many years, a drugstore clerk. He began writing poetry at Washington High School and was elected class poet. At Coe College in Cedar Rapids, he studied English literature, American history, and languages, and was awarded a B.A. in ...

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Foerster, Norman (14 April 1887–01 August 1972), professor of literature and literary critic, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Adolph Martin Foerster, a composer and musician, and Henrietta Reineman. Foerster graduated from Harvard College in 1910 and received an A.M. degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1912. In 1911 he married Dorothy Haskell, with whom he had two children. After teaching English at the University of Wisconsin (1911–1914) and the University of North Carolina (1914–1930), he served as the first director of the School of Letters at the University of Iowa (1930–1944). He later taught at Duke University (1948–1951), and he held offices in the Modern Language Association and the College English Association....

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Hoffman, Frederick John (21 September 1909–24 December 1967), professor of English and literary critic, was born in Port Washington, Wisconsin, the son of Henry George Hoffmann, owner of a small family hotel, and Celia Rose Goldammer. He was brought up a Roman Catholic in a family of nine children, all of whom worked in the family hotel during their formative years. Frederick J. Hoffman, as he came to be known through his writings, dropped the second “n” from his surname as a young man....

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Koch, Vivienne (1911–29 November 1961), educator and literary critic, was born in New York City, the daughter of John Desider Koch, a manufacturer, and Helen Karman. As children, Vivienne and her brother and sister were often cared for by their Hungarian immigrant grandparents and by a German nurse, so they grew up trilingual. Vivienne’s early education was at public schools in New York City. She later attended Washington Square College, a division of New York University. Her initial interest as an undergraduate was in theater, but during her sophomore year she felt unsatisfied with the intellectual challenges it offered, and her interest switched to literature and philosophy. She received her B.A. in 1932 and went on to Columbia University, where she received her M.A. with the completion of her thesis on Anton Chekhov in 1933....

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Matthiessen, F. O. (19 February 1902–01 April 1950), educator, literary critic, and scholar, was born Francis Otto Matthiessen in Pasadena, California, the son of Frederic William Matthiessen, Jr., and Lucy Orne Pratt. Matthiessen’s grandfather had emigrated from Germany to La Salle, Illinois, founded the Western Clock Corporation (later the Westclox Corporation), and died in 1918, leaving an estate of approximately $10 million. Matthiessen’s father was spoiled as a youth and unsettled as an adult, became a spendthrift and a philanderer, deserted his wife and their four children in 1907, and was divorced in 1915. Matthiessen’s mother lived with her children during some of these years in her father-in-law’s La Salle home....

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Millett, Fred Benjamin (19 February 1890–01 January 1976), educator and literary critic, was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, the son of Daniel Edwin Millett, a skilled shoe factory worker, and Mary Avalina Churchill Porter. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Amherst College (A.B., 1912), he taught at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario (lecturer in English, 1912–1916), the University of Chicago (fellow in English, 1916–1918), and—after service as a U.S. Army private from May to December 1918—at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (assistant professor, 1919–1926; associate professor, 1927). In 1927 he returned as an assistant professor to the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. in 1931 and was promoted to associate professor in 1933. In 1937 he joined the faculty of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, as a visiting professor of English on a two-year appointment that became permanent....

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Payne, William Morton (14 February 1858–11 July 1919), writer, translator, and educator, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the son of Henry Morton Payne, a manufacturer of machinery for cotton mills, and Emma Tilton. In 1868 the Paynes relocated to Chicago, where William continued his primary and secondary schooling and displayed a keen interest in literature. Financial difficulties ruled out further formal education but failed to deter young Payne from avidly pursuing self-education. Payne, who never married, remained in Chicago for the duration of his life and became one of that city’s better-known citizens....

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Redding, J. Saunders (13 October 1906–02 March 1988), African-American educator, historian, and literary critic, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Lewis Alfred Redding, a schoolteacher, and Mary Ann Holmes. As graduates of Howard University, Redding’s parents maintained a modest middle-class environment for their children; his father was secretary of the local Wilmington branch of the NAACP. Redding graduated from high school in 1923 and entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania that year, with no discernible career ambitions. In 1924 he transferred to Brown University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1928....

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Richards, I. A. (26 February 1893–07 September 1979), literary critic, poet, and educator, was born Ivor Armstrong Richards in Sandbach, Cheshire, England, the son of William Armstrong Richards, a chemical engineer, and Mary Ann Haigh. Richards studied moral sciences under J. M. E. McTaggart, W. E. Johnson, and G. E. Moore at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and received first-class honors in 1915. Shortly afterward, he suffered his third attack of tuberculosis, which kept him out of World War I. He recuperated in the mountains of North Wales where he met Dorothea Eleanor Pilley, a journalist and mountaineer, whom he married in 1926. They had no children. In 1919 he was invited to teach modern novels and literary theory in the recently founded English program at Cambridge....

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Schorer, Mark (17 May 1908–11 August 1977), professor of English and man of letters, was born in Sauk City, Wisconsin, the son of William Carl Schorer, a manufacturer, and Anna Walser. His education was mainly at the University of Wisconsin, from which he received an A.B. in 1929, a Ph.D. in 1936, and a Litt.D. in 1962. He was also an A.M., Harvard, 1929–1930. On 15 August 1936 he married Ruth Page, with whom he had two children....

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Sherman, Stuart Pratt (01 October 1881–21 August 1926), critic and professor of English, was born in Anita, Iowa, the son of John Sherman, a druggist and farmer, and Ada Pratt. Sherman’s family moved to Los Angeles in 1887 and after his father’s death in 1892 joined maternal relatives in Dorset, Vermont. He graduated from Williams College in 1903 and received a Ph.D. in English at Harvard in 1906. He married Ruth Mears that same year; they had one son. After a year at Northwestern University (1906–1907), he moved to the University of Illinois, where he taught for seventeen years, serving as acting chair of the English department in 1910 and as chair from 1914 until 1924. He then left the university to serve as literary editor of the ...

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Trent, William Peterfield (10 November 1862–06 December 1939), educator, historian, and literary critic, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Peterfield Trent, a physician ruined financially by the Civil War, and Lucy Carter Burwell. After attending a preparatory school in Richmond, Trent entered the University of Virginia, where he took classes in history, languages, mathematics, philosophy, and science; edited the ...

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Tuve, Rosemond (27 November 1903–20 December 1964), literary critic and teacher, was born in Canton, South Dakota, the daughter of Anthony Gulbrandssen Tuve, a mathematician and president of Augustana College, and Ida Marie Larsen, head of the college’s music department. Tuve’s parents did not stop being teachers in the home, and she later said, “I learned without noticing it before I was ten to care about most of the things I have since thought or written about.”...

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Van Doren, Carl (10 September 1885–18 July 1950), author and educator, was born Carl Clinton Van Doren in Hope, Illinois, the son of Charles Lucius Van Doren, a country physician, and Dora Anne Butz. His boyhood was spent in a farming community until the family moved to Urbana, Illinois, in 1900. He played football in high school there and was president of his class. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana, edited the students’ literary monthly magazine, and was class poet. Van Doren received the B.A. in 1907 and taught rhetoric the following academic year at Illinois. In 1908 he enrolled for graduate studies in Columbia University, did research abroad in 1910, and received his Ph.D. in 1911. That same year, he published his dissertation, a biography of Thomas Love Peacock, and began to teach at Columbia. In 1912 he married Irita Bradford ( ...