Authors: Mark Van Doren

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American poet

Author Works

Poetry:

Spring Thunder, and Other Poems, 1924

7 p.m., and Other Poems, 1926

Now the Sky, and Other Poems, 1928

Jonathan Gentry, 1931

A Winter Diary, and Other Poems, 1935

The Last Look, and Other Poems, 1937

Collected Poems, 1922-1938, 1939

The Mayfield Deer, 1941

Our Lady Peace, and Other War Poems, 1942

The Seven Sleepers, and Other Poems, 1944

The Country Year, 1946

The Careless Clock: Poems About Children in the Family, 1947

New Poems, 1948

Humanity Unlimited: Twelve Sonnets, 1950

In That Far Land, 1951

Mortal Summer, 1953

Spring, and Other Poems, 1953

Selected Poems, 1954

Morning Worship, and Other Poems, 1960

Collected and New Poems, 1924-1963, 1963

The Narrative Poems, 1964

That Shining Place: New Poems, 1969

Good Morning: Last Poems, 1973

Long Fiction:

The Transients, 1935

Windless Cabins, 1940

Tilda, 1943

Home with Hazel, 1957

Short Fiction:

Nobody Say a Word, and Other Stories, 1953

Collected Stories, 1962-1968

Drama:

The Last Days of Lincoln, pb. 1959

Three Plays, pb. 1966 (includes Never, Never Ask His Name, pr. 1965)

Nonfiction:

Henry David Thoreau, 1916 (master’s thesis)

The Poetry of John Dryden, 1920 (dissertation)

Shakespeare, 1939

Private Reader, 1942

Liberal Education, 1942

Noble Voice, 1946

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1949

The Autobiography of Mark Van Doren, 1958

The Happy Critic, and Other Essays, 1961

The Essays of Mark Van Doren, 1980

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Dick and Tom: Tales of Two Ponies, 1931

Dick and Tom in Focus, 1932

The Transparent Tree, 1940

Edited Texts:

An Anthology of World Poetry, 1928

The Oxford Book of American Prose, 1932

Walt Whitman, 1945

The Portable Emerson, 1946

Biography

Mark Albert Van Doren (van DOHR-uhn) was a distinguished American poet, critic, fiction writer, editor, and educator. He was born in Hope, Illinois, the son of Dr. Charles Lucius Van Doren (a medical doctor) and Dora Ann Butz. Mark Van Doren remained on his parents’ farm until he was six years old. Subsequently he, his parents, and his four brothers relocated to Urbana, Illinois.{$I[A]Van Doren, Mark[VanDoren, Mark]}{$S[A]Doren, Mark Van;Van Doren, Mark}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Van Doren, Mark[VanDoren, Mark]}{$I[tim]1894;Van Doren, Mark[VanDoren, Mark]}

Following the path of his older brother Carl, Mark Van Doren studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana. After he completed his bachelor’s degree in 1914, he enrolled in the master’s English program. Van Doren took a course in nineteenth century prose writers under the tutelage of Professor Stuart Sherman, who introduced Van Doren to Henry David Thoreau’s writings. Van Doren chose the writings of Thoreau as the subject for his master’s thesis. In 1915 he was awarded his master’s degree.

Van Doren continued his studies at Columbia University in New York, where his brother Carl had studied previously and had become an English literature professor. Carl was very influential in Van Doren’s academic career. Carl suggested Van Doren’s dissertation topic: John Dryden’s poetry. Van Doren received his Ph.D. in 1920.

During the fall of 1920, Van Doren became an English professor at Columbia. During his tenure, he taught several future literary critics, such as Lionel Trilling, Maxwell Geismar, and John Gassner, as well as publishers Donald Dike and Robert Giroux and novelist Jack Kerouac. Demonstrating his passion for teaching, Van Doren remained at Columbia until he retired in 1959. He came out of retirement in 1963 to accept a position at Harvard University as a visiting professor. He continued to write until his death in 1972.

During the 1920’s, Van Doren was literary editor as well as film critic of the liberal weekly The Nation. While serving as literary editor from 1924 to 1928, Van Doren published the works of such poets as Hart Crane, Robert Graves, and Allen Tate. Also, several other members of the Van Doren family, including brother Carl, Irita (Carl’s first wife), and writer and editor Dorothy Graffe (Mark’s future wife), held different positions on The Nation. In 1922, Mark and Dorothy were married. They became the parents of two sons, Charles and John. Dorothy wrote a biography of Van Doren called The Professor and I in 1959.

Van Doren established himself as a significant poet when he published Spring Thunder, and Other Poems, consisting of early pastoral lyrics. Some of his other typical works of poetry include Jonathan Gentry, a narrative poem; A Winter Diary, and Other Poems, his frontier legend; Our Lady Peace, war poems; The Seven Sleepers, and Other Poems, war poems; The Country Year, poems on rural life; and Good Morning: Last Poems, expressions of peaceful acceptance in anticipation of death. Although Van Doren covered a variety of topics in his poetry, some of his common themes concern family, friends, nature, death, American legends, animals, and World War II.

Van Doren began his career as a critic when he published Henry David Thoreau in 1916. Other critical works include The Poetry of John Dryden, Shakespeare, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Van Doren’s major critical writings can be found in Private Reader and The Happy Critic, and Other Essays.

Included in Van Doren’s fiction are four novels: The Transients, Windless Cabins, Tilda, and Home with Hazel. Some of his best short stories can be found in Nobody Say a Word, and Other Stories. Also to his credit are three books of children’s fiction: Dick and Tom, Dick and Tom in Focus, and The Transparent Tree.

Van Doren’s voluminous works earned for him many awards and commendations. In 1940 Van Doren won a Pulitzer Prize forCollected Poems. He received Columbia University’s Alexander Hamilton Medal in 1959, earned the Hale Award in 1960, won the Huntington Hartford Creative Award in 1962, and received the Emerson Thoreau Award in 1963. Additionally, he was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees. Famous poets Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot, and Allen Tate commended Van Doren for his craftsmanship.

Mark Van Doren wrote more than one thousand poems, but only a few critics have given serious consideration to his poetry. Some have suggested that it is unnecessary to analyze or interpret his work because it is not difficult to understand. In fact, many critics have used the term “lucidity” when referring to his poetry.

BibliographyBradbury, Eric, et al., eds. The Penguin Companion to American Literature. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971. This source gives a few biographical details and lists many of Van Doren’s major works.Claire, William, ed. The Essays of Mark Van Doren, 1942-1972. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980. Although the emphasis here is on Van Doren’s work as a critic, the introduction by Claire provides useful information on Van Doren’s poetry and prose, discussing his early influences and development as a writer. Notes that Van Doren’s critical approach was consistent with his position as a poet, namely that a poet “made statements and gave opinions as a professional on the theory that a civilized audience existed to hear them.”Curley, Maurice Kramer, et al., eds. Modern American Literature. Vol. 3. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1969. This source provides critical commentary on Van Doren’s works. Several different critics and sources are represented.Hart, James D., ed. The Oxford Companion to American Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. This source gives a listing of Van Doren’s major works.Hendrick, George, ed. The Selected Letters of Mark Van Doren. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987. These letters, arranged chronologically, give insight into the literary and cultural world in which Van Doren lived. The introduction, although brief, provides some useful details about his poetry, such as his early influences and what other writers and critics thought of him.Ledbetter, J. T. Mark Van Doren. New York: Peter Lang, 1996. A study of Van Doren’s literary life and an examination of the major themes found in his work, focusing particularly on his poetry. Includes bibliographical references and index.Perkins, George, et al., eds. Benét’s Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. Includes a biography with emphasis on Van Doren’s major works.Rood, Karen L., ed. American Literary Almanac from 1608 to the Present. New York: Bruccoli Clark Layman, 1988. This source includes details about Mark Van Doren as well as discussions about other literary figures with whom he associated.Wakefield, Dan. “Lion: A Memoir of Mark Van Doren.” Ploughshares 17, no. 2/3 (Fall, 1991): 100. A former student recalls Van Doren in several anecdotes. Van Doren’s most lasting lesson was that one must be true to one’s deepest instincts, one’s “noble voice,” and never pander to the marketplace.
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