Matthiessen, F. O.
F. O. Matthiessen 1902-1950
(Full name Francis Otto Matthiessen) American critic, essayist, and diarist.
Matthiessen is widely considered the most significant American literary critic of the early twentieth century. A prolific reviewer and essayist, he is credited with elevating the study of American literature into a worthy academic subject that could be used as a cultural and political resource for future students and scholars. His seminal study, American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman, is praised as one of the most important critical works on American literature ever written.
Born in 1902 in Pasadena, California, Matthiessen grew up in LaSalle, Illinois. The youngest of four children, he was raised in a wealthy family. In 1919 he attended Yale University, where he became active in politics and interested in literary and religious studies. He was chosen as a Rhodes Scholar in 1923 and attended Oxford University, receiving his Bachelor of Letters degree in 1925. A year later he received his M.A. from Harvard University. He completed his Ph.D. thesis, eventually published as Translation: An Elizabethan Art. In 1927 Matthiessen became an instructor at Yale and then Harvard. He taught American literature at Harvard for the rest of his life, becoming an influential and distinguished member of the faculty. During his early years of teaching, he began a life-long romantic relationship with the painter Russell Cheney. In 1941 his landmark study of American literature, American Renaissance, was published and garnered much critical commentary. He was politically active during these years, involving himself in socialist causes and co-founding the Monthly Review. After Cheney's death in 1945, Matthiessen became progressively depressed and withdrawn. On April 1, 1950, he committed suicide in Boston.
American Renaissance is considered a classic study of American literature. Before its publication, literature written by American authors was not widely studied and was considered unworthy of serious critical attention. With American Renaissance, Matthiessen defined the major figures of nineteenth-century American literature—such as Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson—and elevated the study of American authors and literature as a legitimate academic subject. His reviews and studies of later American authors such as Theodore Dreiser, Henry James, and T. S. Eliot forged a tradition of American literature that subsequent critics could use as a political and cultural resource. To do this he used the principles of New Criticism, which provided close attention to the structure and texture of language; this approach marked a departure from the work of earlier literary critics such as Vernon L. Parrington and Van Wyck Brooks. It has been asserted that Matthiessen's life-long goal of developing an American literary canon has influenced every subsequent literary critic and student of American letters.
Matthiessen's impact on the study of American literature is invaluable, and as such the amount of critical attention his work has received is extensive. Most commentators laud his progressive, landmark studies of nineteenth-century American writers and maintain that his work helped to define a distinctive canon of American literature at a crucial time in world history. Yet a few dissenting critics deem Matthiessen's literary criticism as dated and fundamentally contradictory; furthermore, they contend that his importance as a reviewer, essayist, and critic is historical, rather than intrinsic. Recent critical studies have focused on Matthiessen's homosexuality and how it impacted his perspective and treatment of authors such as Walt Whitman, Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Hart Crane.
Sarah Orne Jewett (criticism) 1929
Translation: An Elizabethan Art (criticism) 1931
The Achievement of T. S. Eliot: An Essay on the Nature of Poetry (criticism) 1935
American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (criticism) 1941
Henry James: The Major Phase (criticism) 1944
Russell Cheney, 1881-1945: A Record of His Work (letters and essays) 1947
From the Heart of Europe (journal) 1948
Theodore Dreiser (criticism) 1951
The Responsibilities of the Critic: Essays and Reviews (essays) 1952
Rat and the Devil: The Journal Letters of F. O. Matthiessen and Russell Cheney (letters) 1978
(The entire section is 86 words.)
SOURCE: “A Citation of T. S. Eliot” in The Nation (New York), Vol. 141, No. 3668, October 23, 1935, pp. 478-80.
[In the following review, Blackmur provides a mixed assessment of The Achievement of T. S. Eliot.]
The great temptation in writing of T. S. Eliot's poetry is to batten upon the frequent illuminations provided for it in his critical essays; and to this temptation Mr. Matthiessen has again and again given in. His book [The Achievement of T. S. Eliot] is a citation rather than an examination of Eliot's work, and the circulating energy—what keeps the book going and unites its effects—is Mr. Matthiessen's felt appreciation of Eliot's governing obsessions. Thus the successive crises of interpretation and judgment tend naturally without a jar to appear as unrelieved quotation. There could be no better testimony of the scope, the consistency, and the expressive persuasiveness of Eliot's work once one gives in to it, and no clearer warning, perhaps, of the intellectual necessity of not always and never entirely giving in either to Eliot himself or, now, to Mr. Matthiessen's redaction. One gives in intellectually, emotionally, with all a reader's equipment, to find out what is there, but one draws back both to see what is not there and to situate what is. However valuable Mr. Matthiessen's book is, its very method of approach prevents it from being enough.
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SOURCE: “American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman,” in American Literature, Vol. 13, No. 4, January, 1942, pp. 432-44.
[In the following laudatory review of American Renaissance, Spiller considers its “importance as a contribution to American literary history and to the theory and technique of historical writing.”]
I have already reviewed Mr. Matthiessen's book elsewhere in general terms. I should like here to consider its importance as a contribution to American literary history and to the theory and technique of historical writing. Even though its method is nonchronological, American Renaissance seems to me to be an important piece of historical writing, and should influence our concepts of how the history of American literature might be rewritten.
First, what Mr. Matthiessen is not: He is not a passive, objective chronicler. Events pass before his review weighted by values and in interrelationships other than juxtaposition. He has conceived his problem as a whole, established his own attitude toward it, and exercised his critical judgment as well as his historical knowledge at every point in the selection and arrangement of material for discussion.
Second, he is not a social or intellectual historian in the strict uses of those terms. His interest in plan and pattern in the affairs of men is based on neither...
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SOURCE: “Modernizing James,” in The Kenyon Review, Vol. VII, No. 2 Spring, 1945, pp. 311-15.
[In the following mixed assessment of Henry James: The Major Phase, Rahv perceives Matthiessen's analysis as lacking, but deems the volume a significant study of James's later novels.]
This book [Henry James: The Major Phase] is an important contribution to the growing literature about Henry James. For all the talk of James as a neglected figure there is scarcely another American writer who has of late aroused so much critical ardor and discussion. Since the James number of The Little Review (1918) numerous appraisals of his work have appeared; and this intellectual opinion has at long last filtered down to the middlebrow public, so that now James can be said to be enjoying something of a vogue in circles heretofore indifferent to his reputation. Nevertheless one can safely predict that a good many readers, whether highbrow or middlebrow, will continue to resist the Jamesian charm. In its very nature this charm cannot but operate sporadically and superficially on those whose imagination is not caught by the historical theme of the American character in its approach to art and experience, a theme deeply problematical yet firmly grounded in the national culture. And when to the more obvious difficulties of the Jamesian prose you add insensibility to its thematic particulars, it plainly...
(The entire section is 1848 words.)
SOURCE: A review of The Responsibilities of the Critic, in Modern Language Notes, Vol. LXIII, No. 7, November, 1953, pp. 502-4.
[In the following mixed review of Responsibilities of the Critic, Bateson contends that Matthiessen was an excellent reviewer, but a mediocre critic.]
The subtitle [of The Responsibilities of the Critic: Essays and Reviews] is a little misleading. Of the fifty short critical pieces by Matthiessen that make up this book as many as thirty-nine are reviews, reprinted by Mr. Rackliffe, a tactful and intelligent editor, from the Yale Review, the New England Quarterly, the New Republic and similar journals. The “essays” presumably include everything else, from the courageous Hopwood Lecture delivered at the University of Michigan in May 1949, a liberal challenge to this iron age which gives the book its title, to some literary obituaries and unpublished fragments. It is, therefore, essentially Matthiessen the reviewer who is presented to us in this collection. Mr. Rackliffe (or perhaps his publishers) may have thought it prudent not to stress that fact. Collected reviews do not often make enthralling reading, especially when, as here, most of the reviews are comparatively short and the topics range all the way from Winslow Homer or Tocqueville to Louis MacNeice, whom Matthiessen perversely preferred to Auden, or Theodore Spencer, an old...
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SOURCE: “F. O. Matthiessen, Christian Socialist: Literature and the Repossession of Our Cultural Past,” in The Rediscovery of American Literature, Harvard University Press, 1967, pp. 209-73.
[In the following essay, Ruland analyzes the defining characteristics of Matthiessen's critical work, and evaluates his impact on American literary theory and criticism.]
The whole book is based on the proposition that what a writer believes about man, about society, and about the universe has a great deal to do with what he writes. …
—Granville Hicks on American Renaissance (1941)
If we are to have adequate cultural history, we must begin by respecting the texts themselves.
—F. O. Matthiessen, The Responsibilities of the Critic (1952)
As a method, the close attention to the text insisted upon by New Criticism has had far-reaching beneficial effects. But as the sole concern of its more ordinary adherents, it has proven stultifying. The divorce of art from its cultural context must sooner or later prove sterile. By making “extra-literary” a pejorative phrase, many younger New Critics have contributed to the extreme specialization and compartmentalization of...
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SOURCE: “F. O. Matthiessen,” in The American Scholar, Vol. 46, No. 1, Winter, 1976-1977, pp. 86-93.
[In the following essay, Lynn offers personal reminiscences of Matthiessen's tenure as an American literature professor at Harvard University in the 1940s.]
Teachers of American literature who were born, as F. O. Matthiessen was, in the first years of this century, but who are still alive today, have seen the study of their subject move through three different eras. The first, which might be called the Era of Rediscovery, began with Van Wyck Brooks and H. L. Mencken around 1908; gathered strength in the nineteen-twenties and thirties from the work of Lewis Mumford, V. L. Parrington, Granville Hicks, Constance Rourke, and Newton Arvin; reached its most concentrated moment of excitement between 1939 and 1942, when Perry Miller's The New England Mind, Matthiessen's American Renaissance, and Alfred Kazin's On Native Grounds appeared in rapid and dazzling succession; and was finally organized into a triumphal march past in the three-volume Literary History of the United States (1948) by Robert Spiller and an all-star cast of contributors.
During these forty years, the historic prejudice of college English departments against making teaching appointments and offering courses in American literature was also challenged and overcome. When Matthiessen entered Yale in...
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SOURCE: “Double Consciousness and the Cultural Politics of F. O. Matthiessen,” in Monthly Review, February, 1983, pp. 34-56.
[In the following essay, Marx elucidates Matthiessen's political ideology and determines how these beliefs impacted his literary work.]
The bulk of mankind believe in two gods. They are under one dominion here in the house, as friend and parent, in social circles, in letters, in art, in love, in religion; but in mechanics, in dealing with steam and climate, in trade, in politics, they think they come under another; and that it would be a practical blunder to transfer the method and way of working of one sphere into the other. What good, honest, generous men at home, will be wolves and foxes on ‘Change. What pious men in the parlor will vote for what reprobates at the polls! To a certain point, they believe themselves in the care of a Providence. But in a steamboat, in an epidemic, in war, they believe a malignant energy rules.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
His given names were Francis Otto, his friends called him Matty—and still do—but on the title pages of his books and to his readers generally he is F. O. Matthiessen (1902-1950). No writer in the last half century has had a greater influence on the prevailing conception of American literature and its relation to our history. He was a prolific,...
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SOURCE: “Criticism and Politics: F. O. Matthiessen and the Making of Henry James,” in The New England Quarterly, Vol. LX, No. 2, June, 1987, pp. 163-86.
[In the following essay, Cain contends that Matthiessen's ambivalent feelings about the work of Henry James provide insight into the critic's “conflicted attitudes toward the relation between literary criticism and politics.”]
Probably more so than any other modern critic, F. O. Matthiessen legitimated the study of American literature. Not only did he define and develop the basic analytical method—a “close reading” of texts keyed to the articulation of central “American” myths and symbols—but he also did much to establish the canon of major authors. Matthiessen was not, of course, the first person to examine the writings of T. S. Eliot, Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne, Whitman, Dreiser, and others now securely a part of American literature as we know it; but in most cases, it was his critical work that proved to be crucial in bringing the author into focus and hence into the midst of scholarly debate. It comes therefore as somewhat of a surprise to discover that Henry James, the American writer to whom Matthiessen devoted perhaps the most prolonged attention, and whose novels and stories he made especially significant for students of American literature, was not, finally, a writer the critic appears to have greatly esteemed....
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SOURCE: “F. O. Matthiessen and American Studies: Authorizing a Renaissance,” in Critical Genealogies: Historical Situations for Postmodern Literary Studies, Columbia University Press, 1987, pp. 157-75.
[In the following essay, Arac addresses the often contradictory nature of Matthiessen's work and assesses “the possibilities for a new literary history in the practice of American Renaissance.”]
For decades since his suicide in 1950, F. O. Matthiessen has exerted a compelling attraction. The documentation, analysis, and controversy around him bulk larger than for any other American literary scholar born in the twentieth century, and they grow.
There are at least three good reasons for this posthumous attention. First, Matthiessen played a decisive role in making possible the American academic study of American literature (for short, “American studies”). His major book, American Renaissance (1941), has given its name to courses taught at hundreds of institutions. More than any other single factor it enabled hundreds of Ph.D.'s in English to specialize in the American literature of the nineteenth century. Matthiessen himself, however, deplored the “barrenness” of what he termed the “now hopefully obsolescent practice of literary scholars' restricting themselves to the arbitrary confines of a single century in a single country” (Responsibilities 169)....
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SOURCE: “F. O. Matthiessen's Labor of Translation: From Sarah Orne Jewett to T. S. Eliot,” in The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 87, No. 2, Spring, 1988, pp. 355-84.
[In the following essay, Cain examines Matthiessen's critical writings of the late 1920s and 1930s, maintaining that with these works the critic forged his identity as a literary critic.]
F. O. Matthiessen's American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (1941) is one of the landmark texts of American literary studies, and it is the book to which critics naturally turn when they examine Matthiessen's impact and influence. As Sacvan Bercovitch has recently stated—and many others have said the same—“American Renaissance reset the terms for the study of American literary history; it gave us a new canon of classic texts; and it inspired the growth of American Studies in the United States and abroad.”1 But while Matthiessen's writings before and after American Renaissance are less distinguished than his masterpiece, they nevertheless remain interesting and merit scrutiny in their own right. His books on T. S. Eliot (1935), Henry James (1944), and Theodore Dreiser (1951), in particular, were extremely important in developing terms for the analysis of these writers and for consolidating their place in the literary canon. In many respects, the vocabulary we adopt when we speak...
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SOURCE: “Matthiessen's American Renaissance: Circumscribing the Revolution,” in American Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 2, June, 1989, pp. 341-61.
[In the following essay, Cheyfitz explicates and reconciles the contradictory images of Matthiessen in American literary critical theory.]
In 1963, reviewing four books of criticism, including F. O. Matthiessen's posthumous The Responsibilities of the Critic, Leslie Fiedler marked a moment of critical exhaustion. Three of these works, including the Matthiessen, Fiedler told his audience in The Yale Review,
are the victims of our new canon—a brief series of literary works championed over and over in certain expected and unexciting ways. I have never been so aware how most of us, despite our differences, have become inmates of the same infernal cycle of taste; busily snapping at each other's skulls, we do not notice how we are all imprisoned from the waist down in the ice of our congealed enthusiasms. This ice, fixed at the temperature of absolute boredom, our approximate passions cannot melt. Another boost for Henry James, another good word for Melville, another cheer for T. S. Eliot—why this is hell, nor are we out of it.
And, after the allusion to Marlowe's Mephistopholes that culminates his parody of Dante, Fiedler continued: “From this circle,” where, unlike the one...
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SOURCE: “Politics and Art in the Criticism of F. O. Matthiessen,” in The New Criterion, Vol. 7, No. 10, June, 1989, pp. 4-13.
[In the following essay, Tuttleton perceives a discrepancy between Matthiessen's literary criticism and his political views.]
Down with non-partisan writers!
—V. I. Lenin
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 Translation: An Elizabethan Art in 1931, Matthiessen turned his full attention to American literature and attained great influence with The Achievement of T. S. Eliot: An Essay on the Nature of...
(The entire section is 6338 words.)
SOURCE: “The Love of Reading/The Work of Criticism: F. O. Matthiessen and Lionel Trilling,” in Contemporary Literature, Vol. 31, No. 3, Fall, 1990, pp. 373-82.
[In the following review of William A. Cain's F. O. Matthiessen and the Politics of Criticism, Bove praises Cain's reading of Matthiessen's work.]
When the historical sense reigns without restraint, and all its consequences are realized, it uproots the future because it destroys illusions and robs the things that exist of the atmosphere in which alone they can live. Historical justice, even when it is genuine and practiced with the purest intentions, is therefore a dreadful virtue because it always undermines the living thing and brings it down: its judgment is always annihilating.
It is not self-evident that contemporary critical intellectuals who are serious about their role in culture, politics, and society should devote their best energies to writing critical histories of past critics. At least from the time of Kant who, in answering the question, What is Enlightenment? turned philosophy toward the understanding of an engagement with the present; through the works of Marx and Nietzsche and their critical and poststructuralist...
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SOURCE: “Engendering F. O. M.: The Private Life of American Renaissance,” in Engendering Men: The Question of Male Feminist Criticism, edited by Joseph A. Boone and Michael Cadden, Routledge, 1990, pp. 26-35.
[In the following essay, Cadden determines how Matthiessen's sexuality influenced his views on Walt Whitman and discusses the incongruity of his public and private writings on the poet.]
“To work out:—The sexual bias in literary criticism. … What sort of person would the critic prefer to sleep with, in fact.”1
—E. M. Forster
“‘Dosce, doce, dilige.’ ‘Learn, teach, love.’ For me I know no better.”2
—F. O. Matthiessen
When I was an undergraduate at Yale, I was very aware of the ethnic and religious backgrounds of the men and (few) women who taught me literature. Complaining about the gods of the English Department who had shot down our most recent arguments, my friends and I spoke of Father Wimsatt and Father Brooks, Rabbi Bloom and Rabbi Hartman. We did so, as I recall, out of a profound sense of respect for what we saw as the connections these men had made between their various traditions and their work as critics. If we didn't agree with, say, Wimsatt in The Verbal Icon, “that the greater poetry will...
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SOURCE: “F. O. Matthiessen: The Critic as Homosexual,” in Gaiety Transfigured: Gay Self-Representation in American Literature, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1991, pp. 85-102.
[In the following essay, Bergman considers the impact of Matthiessen's sexuality on his work.]
Despite the publicity that attended F. O. Matthiessen's suicide in 1950, and the books that were subsequently written about him, including May Sarton's 1955 novel Faithful are the Wounds, it was not until a quarter of a century later that his homosexuality became public knowledge. During his life, Matthiessen had not tried to hide the fact, but neither had he made it a public issue. Friends, colleagues, and even students widely understood that Matthiessen was gay, but they felt in large measure what William E. Cain has recently said, that the “facts of Matthiessen's sexual … life … do not have much direct bearing at all” on his work (Matthiessen, 48).
Matthiessen would have disagreed. He kept his sexual identity and his scholarly reputation separate only because the social atmosphere in which he worked necessitated such a division. Any attempt to bring them together would have given a rare opportunity to those who wished to discredit him and his work. He understood quite clearly how dear a price he paid for his discretion and how it distorted what he said and how he spoke. “My sex bothers...
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SOURCE: “The ‘Wholeness' of the Whale: Melville, Matthiessen, and the Semiotics of Critical Revisionism,” in Arizona Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 3, Autumn, 1992, pp. 27-58.
[In the following essay, Dolan determines Matthiessen's important role in the critical rediscovery of the work of Herman Melville.]
Last year we observed two important anniversaries in the history of American literature: 1991 marked both the centennial of Herman Melville's death and the semicentennial of the publication of F. O. Mathiessen's American Renaissance. In the half-century between those two occurrences, Melville went from being an obscure New York writer of sea stories to his current status as one of the dozen or so American authors who cannot be ignored. In many ways, the path of his posthumous career and his consequent centrality to American literary studies is even more fascinating than the ups and downs of his career while he was alive. In what follows, I would like to re-examine the admittedly familiar story of Melville's critical rediscovery by exploring the significance of the “Melville boom” between the two world wars for the growth of American literary studies of the antebellum period. This exploration will be bracketed by a general discussion of the process of canon formation and the semiotics of critical rediscovery. Far from deploring the canonization of Melville as a “classic American author,” I...
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SOURCE: “Henry James: The Master and the ‘Queer Affair’ of The ‘Pupil’,” in Critical Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 3, Autumn, 1995, pp. 75-92.
[In the following essay, Horne discusses Matthiessen's reading of James's “The Pupil.”]
Perhaps I can best indicate some of the troubles I want to raise in this essay by quoting from a 1990 volume entitled Engendering Men: The Question of Male Feminist Criticism. One of the editors, Michael Cadden, has an interesting meditation on the great, homosexual critic F. O. Matthiessen—‘Engendering F. O. M.: The Private Life of American Renaissance’—where in effect he laments the accuracy of that comma separating ‘great’ from ‘homosexual’. Matthiessen's homosexuality only fully emerged nearly three decades after his death with the publication of his love-letters to the painter Russell Cheney; his enormously influential critical writing is extremely discreet about private matters. Cadden quotes Matthiessen at the opening of American Renaissance endorsing the view that ‘true scholarship’ must be ‘for the good and enlightenment of all the people, not for the pampering of a class’1—a view which seems linked to Matthiessen's Christian Socialist beliefs and activities—but he lets this drop; his emphasis falls, in contrast, despite Matthiessen's hope that he and Cheney...
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SOURCE: “‘The Responsibilities of the Critic’: F. O. Matthiessen's Homosexual Palimpsest,” in Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 84, No. 3, August, 1998, pp. 261-82.
[In the following essay, Morris maintains that Matthiessen's literary criticism provides insights into his attitudes toward his sexuality as well as the practice of gay historical criticism generally.]
“It is important to recognize that criticism creates American literature in its own image because American literature gives the American people a conception of themselves and of their history.”
Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs (199)
“But man, even to himself, is a palimpsest, having an ostensible writing and another beneath the lines.”
Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd (273)
On the day reserved for foolish deeds in April 1950, an open window in Boston's Manager Hotel became an accessory to troubled legacy. Twelve floors below the “airy room” he had requested lay a dying Harvard literary critic named F. O. Matthiessen. In the days following his death, fellow socialists declared Matthiessen a casualty of the Cold War, his suicide a tragic reenactment of Czech foreign minister Jan Masaryk's defenestration two years earlier. Academic colleagues speculated instead...
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SOURCE: “The Canon in the Closet: Matthiessen's Whitman, Whitman's Matthiessen,” in American Literature, Vol. 70, No. 4, December, 1998, pp. 799-832.
[In the following essay, Grossman analyzes how Matthiessen's sexuality influenced his perception and discussion of the literary relationship between Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau.]
An artist's use of language is the most sensitive index to cultural history, since a man can articulate only what he is, and what he has been made by the society of which he is a willing or an unwilling part.
—F. O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance
Family-life is not to be treated as a red flag to be flaunted in the streets, or a horn to be blown hoarsely on the housetops.
—Oscar Wilde, De Profundis
This essay takes as its point of departure a single, perhaps startling, fact about F. O. Matthiessen's American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman: the word “Calamus” does not appear anywhere in it—not in book four's extended discussion of Whitman, not even in the index. What would it have meant to include the title of this cluster of poems in 1941, or during the 1930s when Matthiessen was writing this important piece of scholarship? How shall we think through this...
(The entire section is 12707 words.)
Levin, Harry. “The Private Life of F. O. Matthiessen.” In Memories of the Moderns, pp. 218-30. New York: New Directions, 1980.
Brief biographical account of the events surrounding Matthiessen's suicide and his relationship with Russell Cheney.
Aaron, Daniel. “Parrington Plus.” The Kenyon Review IV, No. 1 (Winter 1942): 102-6.
Positive assessment of American Renaissance.
Delany, Paul. “Varieties of Liberal Experience.” Times Literary Supplement (5 December 1980): 1391-92.
Contends that Rat and the Devil “may be admissible in a volume mainly concerned with illuminating Matthiessen's domestic life, but a full-scale biography would surely give quite a different sense of his place in American intellectual history.”
Fiedler, Leslie A. “Love is Not Enough.” The Yale Review (Spring 1953): 455-60.
Asserts that The Responsibilities of the Critic exposes Matthiessen's “failure to close the gap between his literary allegiances and his political-ethical ones.”
Trilling, Lionel. “The Head and Heart of Henry James.” In Speaking of Literature and Society, edited by Diana Trilling, pp. 202-6. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980.
(The entire section is 192 words.)