F O Matthiessen

Author: F.O. Matthiessen

Profile: F. O. Matthiessen was a literary critic, historian and educator who was highly influential in the fields of American studies and American literature. He was born in Pasadena, California and died in Boston, Massachusetts. He completed his education at Polytechnic and Hackley Schools. He earned the B.Litt. degree in the years 1925 at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. In 1926 he completed his M.A. at Harvard University and in 1927 his Ph.D degree. He went back to Yale University after this and taught there for 2 years after which he initiated a distinguished career in teaching at Harvard.

He is well known for American Renaissance. Russell Cheney is F.O. Matthiessens’s partner.

American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman is his best known work which celebrated the success of many American authors of the 19th century and had a great impact on a generation of scholars. The common term to refer to American literature of the mid-nineteenth century was also established with this well known work of F. O. Matthiessen. He was greatly known for the support he gave for progressive politics and liberal causes. He has made huge contributions to the community of Harvard University which has been commemorated in many different ways, including an endowed visiting professorship.

He was the fourth of four children, but he along with his mother relocated to LaSalle, Illinois, with his paternal grandparents after his own parents separated. Mattheissen has been member of Skull and Bones, editor of the Yale Literary Magazine and managing editor of the Yale Daily News.

All through his professional career, Matthiessen did not come out and declare his gay identity although his writings apparently indicate traces of homoerotic concern.

Writing style: Landmark works of scholarship on the James family, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sarah Orne Jewett, T.S.Eliot, Sinclarir Lewis, Walt Whitman, Henry DavidThoreau and Herman Melville were written and edited by him.

Published Texts:


1929 – Sarah Orne Jewett

1931 – Translation: An Elizabethan Art

1935 – The Achievement of T.S. Eliot: An Essay on the Nature of Poetry

1941 – American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman

1944 – Herman Melville: Selected Poems

1944 – Henry James: The Major Phase

1947 – Russell Cheney, 1881-1945: A Record of His Work

1981 – The Notebooks of Henry James

1948 – From the Heart of Europe

1950 – The Education of a Socialist, Monthly Review (posthumous)

1950 – Of Crime and Punishment (posthumous)

1950 – The Oxford Book of American Verse

1952 – Responsibilities of the Critic (posthumous)

1961 – The James Family: A Group Biography

1971 – To the Memory of Phelps Putnam


Awards and Acknowledgements:

DeForest Prize

Alpheus Henry Snow Prize

Rhodes Scholarship

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