Mark Albert Van Doren, the son of physician Charles Lucius Van Doren and Dora Ann Butz, was born on his parents’ farm near Hope, Illinois, and lived there for the first six years of his life. Then Van Doren’s parents moved with him and his four brothers to the university town of Urbana, Illinois, where Van Doren’s father had planned to retire but instead continued to practice medicine.
Van Doren attended the University of Illinois at Urbana, as his well-known older brother Carl had done. Both men were strongly influenced by Stuart Sherman, an English professor, and Mark was also taught by Leonard Bloomfield, the linguist, then a young instructor of German. Van Doren received his bachelor’s degree in 1914 and entered the university’s graduate program in English. A course with Sherman in nineteenth century prose writers introduced Van Doren to the writings of Thoreau, the subject of his master’s thesis, which was published in 1916. He received his master’s degree in 1915.
Mark Van Doren again followed his brother Carl’s footsteps, going in 1915 to study at Columbia University, where Carl had studied and where, at the time, he was teaching English. Carl helped to guide his brother’s doctoral studies and even suggested the topic of Mark’s dissertation, Dryden’s poetry. Van Doren’s academic career was interrupted in 1917 by World War I. His Army career, during which he never left the United States, consisted mainly of paperwork and ended with the armistice in 1918.
At the beginning of 1919, Van...
(The entire section is 634 words.)