Van Wyck Brooks

Franklin Library Van Wyck Brooks books

The Flowering of New England - 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature - 1979
The Flowering of New England - Pulitzer Prize Classics -1985


Van Wyck Brooks biography

Van Wyck Brooks, born on February 16, 1886, in Plainfield, New Jersey, was an American literary critic, biographer, and historian. He played a significant role in shaping the landscape of American literary studies during the early to mid-20th century. Brooks is known for his influential works on American literature and cultural history, particularly his studies of prominent literary figures. Educated at Harvard University, Van Wyck Brooks became part of the intellectual and cultural milieu of his time. After a brief period as instructor in English at Leland Stanford Jr. University, he held editorial positions in New York, notably with The Freeman, a weekly magazine. He was associated with the literary and artistic circles of the early 20th century, engaging with the ideas and movements that shaped American literature and thought during that period.

One of Brooks' notable contributions is his exploration of American literary history in a series of books known as Makers and Finders. This series, which includes titles such as The Flowering of New England (1936) and The Confident Years (1952), sought to illuminate the development of American literature and culture. Brooks delved into the lives and works of key American writers, examining their contributions and the broader cultural context in which they emerged. In addition to his historical and critical works, Brooks wrote biographies of several American literary figures. His biography of Washington Irving, titled The Life of Washington Irving, was published in 1935 and received critical acclaim for its detailed examination of Irving's life and contributions to American literature.

Van Wyck Brooks' approach to literary criticism was characterized by a focus on the cultural and social context that influenced writers and their works. He emphasized the importance of understanding literature within the framework of its time, and his scholarship contributed to a broader understanding of American literary traditions. Brooks received recognition for his literary achievements, including the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography, which he won for The Flowering of New England. His influence extended beyond his writings to his role as a cultural commentator and critic during a period of significant intellectual ferment in the United States.

Van Wyck Brooks passed away on May 2, 1963, leaving behind a legacy of scholarship that enriched the study of American literature and cultural history. His works continue to be valued for their insights into the evolution of American intellectual and literary traditions.


The Flowering of New England - 1815-1865

Recognized as one of the most exciting and notable literary achievements of out time, The Flowering of New England has been awarded every major honor that can be bestowed on a book in the United States, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

The Flowering of New England is the first unified modern appraisal of the giants of our native culture. An inclusive, authoritative, inspiring book, it is at one and the same time a lucid narrative of ideas, a brilliant account of the lives of some fifty authors and painters, a poetic evocation of 19th-century Boston, and an almost reverential tribute to the genius of Hawthorne, Emerson, and Thoreau.

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