Quentin Anderson

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Quentin Anderson (July 21, 1912 – February 18, 2003) was an American literary critic and cultural historian at Columbia University.[1] His research focused on 19th-century American authors, especially Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman, and their attempts to define American identity as both connected to and differentiated from European precedents.[2]


Quentin Anderson was born in Minnewaukan, North Dakota. The son of playwright Maxwell Anderson, he moved with his father to Palo Alto, California and then San Francisco after the latter was dismissed from his high school teaching job for his pacifist views. The family then moved to New York City, where Quentin spent his formative years. During the Great Depression, he worked as a mechanic, a grave digger, and as a stage extra on Broadway.

Quentin thereafter began his long career in academia. He studied with Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling at Columbia College, where he earned his B.A. in 1937. After serving in the civilian defense corps in Rockland County, New York, he earned his M.A. at Harvard in 1945 before returning to Columbia to complete his Ph.D. in 1953.[3] He was named a full professor at the university's English Department in 1961 and he chaired a disciplinary committee following the protests of 1968. In 1978 he was named the Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities and was granted a senior fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1973-4. From 1979-80 he was a fellow at the National Humanities Center.[4] He died of heart failure in 2003.[5]

He was known as an inspirational conveyor of knowledge during his time as professor at Columbia. His book The Imperial Self (1971) was a widely heralded and debated account of the shaping of American identity as revealed by nineteenth-century American literature.[6][7]

Anderson lived at 29 Claremont Avenue.[8]

Major works[edit]


Anderson married Thelma Ehrlich in 1947. He had two sons (Maxwell L. Anderson and Abraham Anderson) and a daughter by his first marriage (Martha Haskett Anderson). At the time of his death, he had one grandson, Chase Quentin Anderson.[1]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "American Literary, Cultural Historian Quentin Anderson Dies at Age 90". Columbia News. February 25, 2003. Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Quentin Anderson Papers, 1935-2003 [Bulk Dates: 1960-2000]". Columbia University Libraries: Archival Collections. Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Eastern College Seminar Yields Subjects for Future Discussions". The Harvard Crimson. December 8, 1958. Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Fellows of the National Humanities Center". National Humanities Center. February 2011. Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  5. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (February 24, 2003). "Quentin Anderson, 90, Scholar Known for Literary Criticism". The New York Times. Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  6. ^ Maddocks, Melvin (March 22, 1971). "Books: The I of the Beholder". TIME. Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  7. ^ Krupnick, Mark L. "It’s Your Fault, Henry James". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  8. ^ Europa Publications Limited (2003). International who's who of authors and writers, Volume 19. Psychology Press.