Van Doren, Mark

Van Doren, Mark 1894–1973, American poet and critic, b. Hope, Vermilion co., Ill., Ph.D. Columbia, 1920; brother of Carl Van Doren. He taught English at Columbia (1920–59), where he was a renowned and dedicated teacher. He was also on the staff of the Nation (1924–28, 1935–38). With Carl Van Doren he wrote American and British Literature since 1890 (1939). He wrote critical studies of various authors, including John Dryden (1920) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (1949), compiled several anthologies, and collected his lectures on poetry in The Noble Voice (1946). As a poet Van Doren was deeply influenced by Wordsworth. Among his volumes of poems are Collected Poems, 1922–1938 (1939; Pulitzer Prize) and Morning Worship and Other Poems (1959). Other writings include novels and a play, The Last Days of Lincoln (1959). He also wrote the influential Liberal Education (1943).

See his collected stories (3 vol., 1962–68) and collected poems (1963 and 1969); his autobiography (1958); the memoirs of his wife, Dorothy Graffe Van Doren, The Professor and I (1959).

His son, Charles Van Doren, 1926–2019, b. New York City, Ph.D. Columbia (1959), taught at Columbia from 1955, and became a celebrity as a television quiz show champion (1956–57) on NBC's Twenty-One; He subsequently signed a lucrative contract with NBC. Though he denied wrongdoing when suspicions arose about the integrity of television's quiz shows, he admitted to a congressional committee in 1959 that he had been given questions, answers, and coaching. Disgraced, he resigned from Columbia and was fired by NBC, and having lied to a grand jury, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received a suspended sentence. He later became a writer and editor, becoming an editorial executive with Encyclopedia Britannica, and then taught at the Univ. of Connecticut, retiring in 1982.

See J. Stone, Prime Time and Misdemeanors (1992).

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