Guy Davenport was born on November 23, 1927, in Anderson, South Carolina. His father, Guy Mattison Davenport, spent most of his working life as a shipping agent in Anderson. His mother, Marie Fant Davenport, was a housewife. Although Guy Davenport kept his private life very private, he seemed to have had a happy childhood and recalled with pleasure summer days when he and his father scoured the South Carolina forest looking for Indian arrowheads.
Davenport attended Duke University, where he studied literature and languages, including French, Latin, and Greek, graduating with honors in 1948. He then moved on to Oxford University’s Merton College as a Rhodes Scholar and earned a B. Litt. degree in 1950. He subsequently served in the United States Army Airborne Corps for the following two years. He taught at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1952 to 1955, moving on to further graduate studies at Harvard University from 1956 to 1961. He earned a Ph.D. in modern literature from Harvard in 1961. He taught at Haverford College in Philadelphia from 1961 to 1963 and accepted a permanent position at the University of Kentucky, where he remained for the rest of his academic career. He retired from Kentucky in 1991 after receiving a prestigious MacArthur Grant.
Besides teaching at the University of Kentucky, where he taught courses in modern literature, Davenport traveled extensively throughout Europe, especially France, gathering material for his stories and his scholarly essays. In addition to his many literary essays and more than sixty short stories (some the length of novels), he wrote literary criticism and book reviews for many journals and magazines. He reviewed books for National Review for eleven years and also for Life, The New York Times Book Review, Hudson Review, Poetry, Book Week, The New Criterion, and the Los Angeles-New York Times Book Review Service. He died in early 2005 of cancer.