Features June 1989
Politics and art in the criticism of F. O. Matthiessen
On F. O. Matthiessen and the Politics of Criticism by William H. Cain.
Down with non-partisan writers!
At the time of his suicide in 1950, the Harvard professor F. O. Matthiessen was one of the most influential figures in the development of the academic criticism of American literature. Others—like Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, William Empson and R. P. Blackmur, F. R. Leavis and Lionel Trilling—had greater critical authority and commanded a larger audience of intelligent and cultivated readers. But they were part of a wider cultural world. Matthiessen was pre-eminently a man of the university. Even so, his literary influence radiated from his own classroom and writing into the lectures and seminars of others, and from there to generations of students of American literature. Why is he worth remembering?
After the impressionistic study Sarah Orne Jewett in 1929 and Eliotic reflections on...
New to The New Criterion?
Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.Subscribe