Francis Otto Matthiessen

Matthiessen, Francis Otto


Born Feb. 19, 1902, in Pasadena, Calif.; died Apr. 1, 1950, in Boston, Mass. American literary critic and essayist.

Matthiessen graduated from Yale University in 1923; he later became a professor at Harvard University (1929-50). Abandoning the formalism of his early works, such as Achievement of T. S. Eliot (1935), he arrived at a socio-historical understanding of the literary process that was similar to the Marxist concept; Matthiessen’s new ideas about literature are reflected in his posthumous works Theodore Dreiser (1951) and Responsibilities of the Critic (1952). His American Renaissance (1941) is devoted to American romanticism and the works of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, and Whitman. Rejecting the views of modern criticism, Matthiessen was one of the first to appreciate the realism in the work of H. James and the importance of Dreiser for American literature. A number of Matthiessen’s studies were devoted to 20th-century American poetry and to aesthetics.

In his book of essays From the Heart of Europe (1948), Matthiessen wrote favorably about the USSR, which he had visited as early as 1938, and about the European countries building socialism. During the McCarthy era, Matthiessen was subjected to cruel persecution, which led to his suicide.


In Russian translation:
Otvetstvennost’ kritiki. Foreword by Ia. Zasurskii. Moscow, 1972.


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Il capitolo finale, "Le ultime parole," e dedicato all'impatto che il volume di Francis Otto Matthiessen, American Renaissance, ha avuto su Pavese.
L'attenzione alla storia e il trait d'union che lega la tesi di laurea agli altri saggi coevi e successivi consacrati da Pavese alla letteratura americana, fino al culmine, raggiunto con il testo dedicato a Francis Otto Matthiessen, al quale viene riconosciuto il merito di aver ricollegato la cultura al mondo del lavoro.
La consapevolezza storica di Pavese raggiunge ii culmine nel saggio su Francis Otto Matthiessen (vedi Pertile, 1983 e 2001).