Vernon Louis Parrington Additional Biography

Biography

Vernon Louis Parrington, after whom Parrington Hall is named at the University of Washington, was a midwesterner by birth and choice. After studying at the College of Emporia, in Emporia, Kansas, he transferred to Harvard University and graduated in 1893. Returning to Emporia, he was an instructor in English and French from 1893 to 1897; he received the M.A. in 1895.

Although he sympathized with the agrarian Populist Party—he unsuccessfully ran for the local school board as a Populist—Parrington was not a political activist. From 1897 to 1908 he was a member of the faculty of the University of Oklahoma. Strongly attracted to the ideas of England’s William Morris and John Ruskin, Parrington spent 1903-1904 on academic leave in Europe, where he did research at the British Museum in London and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. In 1908, after being terminated at the University of Oklahoma for political reasons, he joined the staff of the English department at the University of Washington, where he taught until his death in 1929. He was married in 1901 and had two daughters and a son. His son, Vernon Louis Parrington, Jr., is the author of a highly reputed study of the utopian novel in American literature.

Parrington, a student of history as well as of literature, wrote one of the most influential discussions of American literature ever produced by an individual. His approach to the study of literature, largely unknown before the...

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Bibliography

Hall, H. Lark. V. L. Parrington: Through the Avenue of Art. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1994. A reappraisal of Parrington took place in the last decades of the twentieth century, most notably reflected here in the first complete biography.

Hofstadter, Richard. The Progressive Historians: Turner, Beard, Parrington. New York: Knopf, 1968. A valuable study, although critical of the subjects.

Skotheim, Robert. American Intellectual Histories and Historians. 1966. Reprint. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978. Critical of its subjects.

Trilling, Lionel. The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979. Dismissive of Parrington’s literary analysis, and later the “consensus” historians found Parrington’s supposed Jeffersonian bias overly simplistic.