Brooks, Van Wyck


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Brooks, Van Wyck

(văn wĭk`), 1886–1963, American critic, b. Plainfield, N.J., grad. Harvard, 1908. His first book, The Wine of the Puritans (1909), presented the thesis that American culture has been so pervaded by puritanism with its materialistic emphasis that the artistic side of the nation's life has been profoundly neglected. Although this theme was developed in such subsequent books as America's Coming-of-Age (1915), The Ordeal of Mark Twain (1920), and The Pilgrimage of Henry James (1925), later works, including Emerson and Others (1927), indicate his growing respect for American literature. In 1937 he won the Pulitzer Prize in history for The Flowering of New England (1936). Other volumes followed in the series he called Makers and Finders: New England: Indian Summer (1940), The World of Washington Irving (1944), and The Times of Melville and Whitman (1947). In this series, his masterwork, Brooks interprets American literary history; it is a vivid, varied chronicle, rich in anecdote and infused with the author's humanism. Among Brooks's innumerable other books are such autobiographical works as Days of Phoenix (1957), From a Writer's Notebook (1958), and An Autobiography (1965).

Bibliography

See The Van Wyck Brooks–Lewis Mumford Letters, ed. by R. E. Spiller (1970).

Brooks, Van Wyck

 

Born Feb. 16, 1886, in Plainfield, N. J.; died May 2, 1963, in New York. American literary scholar.

In 1915, Brooks published the book America’s Coming-of-Age. Close to the cultural-historical and sociological school, Brooks spoke out against decadent literature. In the book The Ordeal of Mark Twain (1920) he developed the idea of a conflict between the artist and capitalist civilization, and he devoted the book The Pilgrimage of Henry James (1925) to this theme. In the works The Flowering of New England (1936), New England: Indian Summer (1940), The World of Washington Irving (1944), The Times of Melville and Whitman (1947), and The Confident Years (1952), Brooks presented a broad panorama of American literature. In the books The Writer in America (1953), Days of the Phoenix (1957), and From a Writer’s Notebook (1958), he condemned modern formalistic tendencies, including the “new criticism.” In Howells: A Biography (1959), Brooks wrote about the influence of socialist ideas and Russian authors (L. N. Tolstoy and I. S. Turgenev) on W. D. Howells.

WORKS

Opinions of Oliver Allston. New York, 1944.
Helen Keller. London, 1956.
In Russian translation:
Pisatel’ i amerikanskaia zhizn’, vol. 1. Moscow, 1967. Vol. 2: Moscow, 1971.

REFERENCES

Mendel’son, M. “Van Vik Bruks i demokraticheskie traditsii amerikanskogo literaturovedeniia.” In Sovremennoe literaturovedenie SShA. Moscow, 1969.
Vitelli, J. R. Van Wyck Brooks. New York, 1969.

B. A. GILENSON

Brooks, Van Wyck

(1886–1963) literary critic, biographer; born in Plainfield, N.J. Harvard educated, he emerged as America's most influential cultural and literary critic of the 1930s and 1940s after establishing his reputation with America's Coming of Age (1915) and biographies of Mark Twain, Henry James and Emerson. Brooks interpreted the American literary tradition for a wide audience in his prizewinning and influential 5-volume Makers and Finders: A History of the Writer in America (1936–52).
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