Mark van doren

Mark Van Doren (1894-1972). Courtesy Climbing Sky.

Mark Van Doren
Born June 13, 1894(1894-Template:MONTHNUMBER-13)
Hope, Vermilion County, Illinois
Died December10, 1972(1972-Template:MONTHNUMBER-10) (aged 78)
Torrington, Connecticut
Occupation poet, literary critic, academic
Notable work(s) Shakespeare (1939)
A Liberal Education (1943)
Notable award(s) Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Collected Poems 1922-1938
Academy of American Poets Fellowship]] (1967)
Spouse(s) Dorothy Graffe Van Doren
Children Charles Van Doren
John Van Doren
Relative(s) Carl Van Doren (brother)

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


Youth and educationEdit

Van Doren was born in the town of Hope 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.[2]

He was the younger brother of the academic and biographer Carl Van Doren, and starting with whom, all his five brothers attended the local elementary school and high school, and eventually joined the University of Illinois also in the town.[2]

Mark Van Doren earned a B.A. from the University of Illinois in 1914 and a Ph.D. from what became the Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University in 1920.


Van Doren joined Columbia University faculty in 1920, his entry was easy as he was preceded by his brother and noted author, Carl Van Doren, though he went on to become one of its greatest teachers, and a "legendary classroom presence". He attained full professorship in 1942, and taught English until 1959, and later he remained Professor Emeritus, 1959–72 [3] 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,[4] writer and Trappist monk Thomas Merton, Walter B Pitkin Jr and poet-critic John Hollander.[3][5]

"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) [3]

He twice served on the staff of The Nation during the 1920s and 1930s. He was a member of the Society for the Prevention of World War III.

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, The Liberal Education (1943), which helped promote the influential "great books" movement. 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.[6][7]

Private lifeEdit

In 1922 Mark Van Doren married novelist Dorothy Graffe Van Doren, 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.[5] Mrs. Van Doren wrote the memoir, The Professor and I, in 1959).

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,[8][9] who earned an Academy Award nomination in Best Supporting Actor category for his performance.[10] 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.[5]

Mark Van Doren died 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.[11] Lion: A Memoir of Mark Van Doren (1991), by Dan Wakefield won the 1992 Cohen Awards.


Virgina Quarterly Review, "Mark Van Doren's Literary Letters": "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."[12]


  • "The literature of the world has exerted its power by being translated." [13]
  • "Nothing in man is more serious than his sense of humor; it is the sign that he wants all the truth." [14]
  • "The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery." [14]


Van Doren won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1940 for his Collected Poems.

Since 1962, students of Columbia College have honored a great teacher at the school each year with the "Mark Van Doren Award".[3]

In popular cultureEdit

A Canadian alternative rock band named itself after Van Doren's poem, "Our Lady Peace".[15]

Publications Edit


  • Spring Thunder, and other poems. New York: T. Seltzer, 1924.
  • Jonathan Gentry. New York: A. & C. Boni, 1931.
  • A Winter Diary, and other poems. New York: Macauley, 1935; Macmillan, 1935.
  • Collected Poems, 1922-1938. New York: Holt, 1939.
  • The Mayfield Deer. New York & San Francisco: Holt, 1941.
  • New Poems. New York: William Sloane Associates, 1948.
  • Spring Birth, and other poems. New York: Holt, 1953.
  • Selected poems. New York: Holt, 1954.
  • Morning Worship, and other poems. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960.
  • Collected and New Poems, 1924-1963. New York: Hill & Wang, 1963.
  • Narrative Poems. New York: Hill & Wang, 1964.
  • Mark Van Doren: 100 poems. New York: Hill & Wang, 1967.
  • That Shining Place: New poems. New York: Hill & Wang, 1969.
  • Good Morning: Last poems. New York: Hill & Wang, 1973.


  • The Last Days of Lincoln: A play in six scenes. New York: Hill & Wang, 1959.
  • Three Plays. New York, Hill & Wang, 1966.


  • The Transients. New York: W. Morrow, 1935.
  • Windless Cabins. New York: Holt, 1940.
  • Tilda. New York: Holt, 1943.

Short fictionEdit

  • The Short Stories of Mark Van Doren. New York: Abelard Press, 1950.
  • Nobody Say a Word, and other stories. New York: Holt, 1953.
  • Home with Hazel, and other stories. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1957.
  • Collected Stories. New York: Hill & Wang, 1962-68.


  • Henry David Thoreau: A critical study. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1916.
  • The Poetry of John Dryden. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & Howe, 1920; Honolulu, HI: University Press of the Pacific, 2005.
  • Edwin Arlington Robinson. New York: Literary Guild of America, 1927.
  • An Autobiography of America. New York, A. & C. Boni, 1929.
  • American poets, 1630-1930. Boston: Little, Brown, 1932.
  • American and British Literature Since 1890 (by Carl and Mark Van Doren). New York & London: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1939.
  • Shakespeare. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1939.
  • The Private Reader: Selected articles and reviews. New York: Holt, 1942.
  • Liberal Education. New York: Holt, 1943.
  • The night of the summer solstice, and other stories of the Russian war. New York: Holt, 1943.
  • John Dryden: A study of his poetry. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1946.
  • The Noble Voice: A study of ten great poems. New York: Holt, 1946.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: W. Sloan Associates, 1949.
  • Introduction to Poetry. New York: Sloan, 1951
    • also published as Introduction to Poetry: Commentaries on 30 poems. New York, Hill & Wang, 1966.
  • The Autobiography of Mark Van Doren. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1958.
  • Don Quixote's Profession. New York: Columbia University Press, 1958; Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1960.
  • Four Poets on Poetry (by Richard P. Blackmur, Yvor Winters, Marianne Moore, & Mark Van Doren; edited by Don Cameron Allen). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1959.
  • The Happy Critic, and other essays. New York: Hill & Wang, 1961.
  • Mark Van Doren: On great poems of Western literature. New York: Collier Books, 1962.
  • The Essays of Mark Van Doren, 1924-1972.. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980.


  • The Oxford Book of American Prose. Oxford University Press, 1932.
  • An Anthology of World Poetry. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1936.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Portable Emerson. New York: Viking, 1946.


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat .[16]

Mark Van Doren - Morning Worship02:12

Mark Van Doren - Morning Worship


See alsoEdit

References Edit

  • J.T. Ledbetter, Mark Van Doren. Peter Lang, 1996. ISBN 0820433349.
  • The Essays of Mark Van Doren, 1924–1972 (selected with introduction by William Claire)


  1. Mark Van Doren Encyclopedia Britannica
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mark Van Doren: Collected and New Poems University of Pennsylvania.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Mark Van doren", Columbia 250 - Colombian Ahead of Their Times Columbia University.
  4. [|Chambers, Whittaker] (1952). Witness. Random House. pp. 164–166, 545. ISBN 0-89526-571-0. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Mark Van Doren and Shakespeare
  6. Mark Van Doren Profile The New York Review of Books
  7. "Mark Van Doren", Faculty Profiles Columbia University.
  8. Maslin, Janet (September 14, 1994). "QUIZ SHOW; Good and Evil in a More Innocent Age". New York Times. 
  9. David Ansen (Sep 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". Newsweek. 
  10. Mark Van Doren
  11. "Mark Van Doren, 78, Poet, Teacher, Dies". New York Times. December 12, 1972. 
  12. "Mark Van Doren's Literary Letters". Virginia Quarterly Review: 756–764. Autumn 1989. 
  13. The Art, Craft, Modes, and Efficacy of Literary Translation Discussed Through the Ages The University of Texas at Dallas - School of Arts & Humanities.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Mark Van Doren quotes
  15. Our Lady Peace, Artist Roster, Feldman Agency. Web, May 14, 2014.
  16. Search results=Mark Van Doren, WorldCat, Web, July 9, 2012.

External links Edit

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