John Hollander was born on October 28, 1929, in New York City, the son of Franklin Hollander, a physiologist, and Muriel (Kornfeld) Hollander. Hollander traces his family roots to the Kabbalist Rabbi Loew of Prague, Czechoslovakia, in “Letter to Jorge Luis Borges” from The Night Mirror. He was graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in 1950 and an M.A. in 1952, and he completed his Ph.D. at Indiana University in 1959. Hollander was married to Anne Loesser on June 15, 1953; the couple were divorced in 1977. He has two children, Martha and Elizabeth. He married Natalie Charkow in 1981.
After earning his master’s degree, Hollander went to Harvard University as a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows (1954-1957). His academic career continued when he accepted the post of lecturer in English at Connecticut College (1957-1959). He was an instructor at Yale University (1959-1966), taught at Hunter College (1966-1967), and was visiting professor at the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies (1965). He served as associate editor for poetry for the Partisan Review in 1970-1971 and was a contributing editor for Harper’s during the same period. In 1977, Hollander returned to Yale, where he served as A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of English (1986-1995) and Sterling Professor of English (1995-2003). After retirement, he became Sterling Professor Emeritus.