born in Wisconsin, received his A.B. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, and while still a graduate student published his first novel, A House Too Old (1935), set in his native state. His career then continued to include achievements in both scholarship and fiction. He was a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley (1945–73). His later novels are The Hermit Place (1941) and The Wars of Love (1954), and his sensitive stories, many first printed in The New Yorker, appear in The State of Mind (1947). His major scholarly works are William Blake: The Politics of Vision (1946) and Sinclair Lewis: An American Life (1961), a monumental biography. His essays are collected as The World We Imagine (1968). Pieces of Life (1977) contains autobiographical sketches and short stories.