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George Edward Woodberry

(1855—1930)


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(1855–1930), Massachusetts critic, poet, and professor, first won notice for his life of Poe (1885, enlarged 1909), a subject for which he had little sympathy but which he treated with scholarly impartiality. In 1890 he published his first book of poetry, The North Shore Watch, and collected his magazine articles as Studies in Letters and Life, a critique of literature in relation to the experiences that produce it. As professor of comparative literature at Columbia (1891–1904), he was known for his stimulating instruction and personal guidance of students. During this period he published further volumes of poetry; two collections of essays, Heart of Man (1899) and Makers of Literature (1900), which show him to be in accord with the movement later known as the New Humanism; a biography of Hawthorne (1902), considered his best biographical work; and America in Literature (1903), a literary history illustrating his antipathy to realism in its failure to consider such authors as Whitman and Clemens. After resigning from Columbia, he made his home in Massachusetts, but led a life of academic and literary vagabondage, teaching for brief periods at colleges in the East and West, and spending much time abroad. His works of this later period include collections of his lectures, such as The Torch (1905) and The Appreciation of Literature (1907); a biography of Emerson (1907); a book of travels, North Africa and the Desert (1914); Ideal Passion (1917), a sonnet sequence that expresses his idealistic philosophy of beauty; and The Roamer (1920), a long narrative poem reflecting his personal creed and spiritual autobiography. His scholarship is demonstrated in his editions of the works of Shelley (1892) and, with E.C. Stedman, of the works of Poe (10 vols., 1894–95).

From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.



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