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F. O. Matthiessen (Francis Otto Matthiessen) Biography

(1902–50), (Francis Otto Matthiessen), Translation: An Elizabethan Art, Sarah Orne Jewett

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American critic, born in Pasadena, California, educated at Yale and at Harvard, where he became Professor of English in 1942. His initial specialization in Elizabethan literature, represented by Translation: An Elizabethan Art (1931), was supplanted by the interest in American writing stimulated by his reading of Van Wyck Brooks's works in the late 1920s. Sarah Orne Jewett (1929), his first treatment of an American author, was followed by The Achievement of T. S. Eliot (1935), the earliest study of Eliot's work to appear in the USA. American Renaissance (1941), Matthiessen's most influential publication, establishes a comprehensive perspective on the historical and intellectual backgrounds to the writings of Emerson, Whitman, Melville, Thoreau, and Hawthorn. Henry James: The Major Phase (1944) was the first work to make use of material from James's notebooks, the first edition of which Matthiessen produced with Kenneth B. Murdock in 1947. The James Family (1947) considered creative interactions between Henry James, William James, and their father, the philosopher Henry James, Sr. After teaching in Prague, he published From the Heart of Europe (1948), which posited a radical vision of Europe as a united social democracy. His edition of The Oxford Book of American Verse appeared in 1950, the year in which his suicide was precipitated by his growing despair at cultural conditions. Matthiessen's last years form the basis of May Sarton's novel Faithful Are the Wounds (1955). F. O. Matthiessen: The Critical Achievement by Giles Gunn was published in 1975.

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