World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Mark Van Doren

Article Id: WHEBN0000753053
Reproduction Date:

Title: Mark Van Doren  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: List of poetry collections, Dorothy Graffe Van Doren, Charles Van Doren, Cornwall, Connecticut, Quiz Show (film)
Collection: 1894 Births, 1972 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Poets, American Autobiographers, American Film Critics, American Literary Critics, American Literary Editors, American Male Poets, American People of Dutch Descent, American Poets, Columbia University Alumni, Columbia University Faculty, English Literature Academics, People from Vermilion County, Illinois, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry Winners, The Nation (U.S. Magazine) People, University of Illinois at Urbana–champaign Alumni, Van Doren Family
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Mark Van Doren

Mark Van Doren
Born (1894-06-13)June 13, 1894
Hope, Vermilion County, Illinois
Died December 10, 1972(1972-12-10) (aged 78)
Torrington, Connecticut
Occupation poet, critic, teacher
Alma mater University of Illinois
Columbia University
Notable works Shakespeare (1939)
A Liberal Education (1943)
Notable awards Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1940 for Collected Poems 1922–1938
Academy of American Poets' Fellowship (1967)
Spouse Dorothy Graffe Van Doren
Children Charles Van Doren
John Van Doren
Relatives Carl Van Doren (brother)

Mark Van Doren (June 13, 1894 – December 10, 1972) was an American poet, writer and critic, apart from being a scholar and a professor of English at Columbia University for nearly 40 years, where he inspired a generation of influential writers and thinkers including Thomas Merton, Robert Lax, John Berryman, Whittaker Chambers, and Beat Generation writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. He was literary editor of The Nation, in New York City (1924–28), and its film critic, 1935 to 1938.[1]

He won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Collected Poems 1922–1938. Amongst his other notable works, many published in The Kenyon Review,[2] include a collaboration with brother Carl Van Doren, American and British Literature since 1890 (1939); critical studies, The Poetry of John Dryden (1920), Shakespeare (1939), The Noble Voice (1945) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (1949); collections of poems including Jonathan Gentry (1931); stories; and the verse play The Last Days of Lincoln (1959).


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Legacy 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • Reviews 6
  • Quotes 7
  • Further reading 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Early life and education

Van Doren was born in Vermilion County, Illinois, the fourth of five sons of the county's doctor, Charles Lucius Van Doren, of remote Dutch ancestry, and wife Eudora Ann Butz. He was raised on his family's farm in eastern Illinois, before his father decided to move to the neighboring town of Urbana, to be closer to good schools.[3]

He was the younger brother of the academic and biographer Carl Van Doren, starting with whom all five brothers attended the local elementary school and high school. Mark Van Doren eventually studied at the University of Illinois in Urbana,[3] where he earned a B.A. in 1914. In 1920, he earned a Ph.D. from what became the Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University.


Van Doren joined the Columbia University faculty in 1920, having been preceded by his brother Carl. Mark Van Doren went on to become one of Columbia's greatest teachers and a "legendary classroom presence"; he became a full professor in 1942, and taught English until 1959, at which point he became Professor Emeritus until his death in 1972 [4] His students at Columbia included the poets and writers John Berryman, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Louis Simpson, Richard Howard, Lionel Trilling (later a colleague), Robert Lax, Anthony Robinson, as well as the Japanologist and interpreter of Japanese literature Donald Keene, author and activist Whittaker Chambers,[5] writer and Trappist monk Thomas Merton, Walter B. Pitkin Jr and poet-critic John Hollander.[4][6]

"I have always had the greatest respect for students. There is nothing I hate more than condescension—the attitude that they are inferior to you. I always assume they have good minds."

– Mark Van Doren (Newsweek, 1959) [4]

He twice served on the staff of weekly The Nation from 1924–1928 and again from 1935–1938.[7] He was a member of the Society for the Prevention of World War III.

In 1940, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Collected Poems 1922–1938.[8] This came only a year after, his elder brother Carl had won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for Benjamin Franklin.[9] Van Doren helped Ginsberg avoid jail time in June 1949 by testifying on his behalf when Ginsberg was arrested as an accessory to crimes carried out by Herbert Huncke and others, and was an important influence on Merton, both in Merton's conversion to Catholicism and Merton's poetry. He was a strong advocate of liberal education, and wrote the book, Liberal Education (1943), which helped promote the influential "great books" movement.[10] Starting 1941, he also did Invitation to Learning, a CBS Radio show, where as one of the experts he discussed great literature.

He was made a Fellow in American Letters of the Library of Congress and also remained president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[11][12]

Personal life

In 1922 Mark Van Doren married Dorothy Graffe, novelist and writer of the memoir The Professor and I (1959), whom he had earlier met at The Nation. His successful book, Anthology of World Poetry, enabled the couple to buy a house on Bleecker Street in New York City in February 1929, before markets collapsed.[6]

Their son, Charles Van Doren (born February 12, 1926), briefly achieved renown as the winner of the rigged game show Twenty One. In the film Quiz Show (1994), Mark Van Doren was played by Paul Scofield,[13][14] who earned an Academy Award nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category for his performance.[15] Their second son is John Van Doren who also lives in Cornwall, Connecticut, at the farmstead where their father did most of his writing between academic years, and where he moved after retirement.[6]

Mark Van Doren died on December 10, 1972, in Torrington, Connecticut, aged 78, two days after undergoing surgery for circulatory problems at the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital. He was interred at Cornwall Hollow Cemetery in Connecticut.[16] Lion: A Memoir of Mark Van Doren (1991), by Dan Wakefield won the 1992 Cohen Awards.


His correspondence with Allen Tate is at Vanderbilt University.[17] Since 1962, students of Columbia College have honored a great teacher at the school each year with the "Mark Van Doren Award".[4]

The Canadian alternative rock band "Our Lady Peace" named themselves in honor of Mark Van Doren's poem of the same name.



  • Spring Thunder (1924)
  • An Anthology of World Poetry (1928)
  • Jonathan Gentry (1931), (Editor)
  • The Oxford Book of American Prose, (OUP), (1932)
  • Winter Diary (1935)
  • Collected Poems 1922–1938 (1939), Winner of the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
  • The Mayfield Deer (1941)
  • Selected poems (Holt), (1954)
  • The Last Days of Lincoln, a play in six scenes (1959), a Verse Play
  • Our Lady Peace
  • The Story-Teller (N/A)
  • Collected and New Poems 1924–1963 (1963)
  • Mark Van Doren: 100 poems. Hill and Wang. 1967. 


  • The Transients (1935)
  • Windless Cabins (1940)
  • Tilda (1943)

Short story collection

  • Nobody Say a Word (1954)


  • Henry David Thoreau: A Critical Study (1916)
  • The Poetry of John Dryden (1920)
  • Introduction to Bartram's Travels (1928)
  • An Autobiography of America, (A. & C. Boni), )1929)
  • American poets, 1630-1930 (Little, Brown), (1932)
  • American and British Literature Since 1890 (1939), with Carl Van Doren
  • Shakespeare (1939)
  • The Liberal Education (1943)
  • The night of the summer solstice: & other stories of the Russian war, (Henry Holt and Company), (1943)
  • The Noble Voice (1946)
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne (1949)
  • Introduction to Poetry (1951)
  • The Autobiography Of Mark Van Doren (1958)
  • The Happy Critic (1961)
  • Mark Van Doren on Great Poems of Western Literature. Collier Books. 1962. 
  • Insights into literature. Houghton Mifflin. 1968. 
  • George Hendrick, ed. (1987). The Selected Letters of Mark Van Doren. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.  
  • John Dryden: A Study of His Poetry. Read Books. 2007.  
  • Edwin Arlington Robinson (Reprint ed.). Kessinger Publishing. 2010.  


  • Mark Van Doren Reads from His Collected and New Poems (Folkways Records, 1967)


This well-edited, attractive selection (about one-fourth of the surviving letters) brings Mark Van Doren alive, especially to those who knew him and can hear the voice behind the written words. It should help criticism begin to engage the works and personality of a very considerable American "man of letters:" superb poet and critic, wide-ranging editor, accomplished storyteller and playwright, and devoted educator.[18]


  • "The literature of the world has exerted its power by being translated." [19]
  • "Nothing in man is more serious than his sense of humor; it is the sign that he wants all the truth." [20]
  • "The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery." [20]

Further reading

  • Mark Van Doren, by J. T. Ledbetter. Peter Lang, 1996. ISBN 0-8204-3334-9.
  • Sonnets by Mark Van Doren


  1. ^ Mark Van Doren Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ "History" the Kenyon Review Web site, accessed January 26, 2007
  3. ^ a b Mark Van Doren: Collected and New Poems University of Pennsylvania
  4. ^ a b c d - Colombian Ahead of Their TimesColumbia 250"Mark Van doren", Columbia University.
  5. ^ Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. Random House. pp. 164–166, 545.  
  6. ^ a b c Mark Van Doren and Shakespeare
  7. ^ "Author Bios: Mark Van Doren (and articles)". The Nation. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Official listings: Pulitzer Prize for Poetry". Pulitzer Prize. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  9. ^ Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography Official Listings.
  10. ^ "The Beginnings of the Great Books Movement at Columbia". Columbia Magazine. Winter 2001. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  11. ^ Mark Van Doren Profile The New York Review of Books
  12. ^ Faculty Profiles"Mark Van Doren", Columbia University.
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (September 14, 1994). "QUIZ SHOW; Good and Evil in a More Innocent Age".  
  14. ^ David Ansen (September 19, 1994). "FALL PREVIEW: MOVIES: When America Lost Its Innocence--Maybe - Robert Redford Takes A Prismatic Look At A Nation Through The Tv Quiz-Show Scandals Of The '50S".  
  15. ^ Mark Van Doren
  16. ^ "Mark Van Doren, 78, Poet, Teacher, Dies".  
  17. ^ Mark Van Doren Vanderbilt University Library.
  18. ^ "Mark Van Doren's Literary Letters". Virginia Quarterly Review: 756–764. Autumn 1989. 
  19. ^ The Art, Craft, Modes, and Efficacy of Literary Translation Discussed Through the Ages The University of Texas at Dallas - School of Arts & Humanities.
  20. ^ a b Mark Van Doren quotes

Further reading

  • The Essays of Mark Van Doren: (1924-1972) Selected, with an Introduction by William Claire. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

External links

  • Mark Van Doren, Biography and Poems at Poetry Foundation
  • Mark Van Doren and Shakespeare; Columbia College Today, September 2005 (retrieved May 24, 2009)
  • Mark Van Doren & American classicism. Free Library
  • Grave of Mark Van Doren at Find a Grave
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.