Edmund Wilson

Edmund Wilson, 1895–1972, American critic and author, b. Red Bank, N.J. grad. Princeton, 1916. He is considered one of the most important American literary and social critics of the 20th cent. From 1920 to 1921 he was managing editor of Vanity Fair, and he was later on the staffs of the New Republic (1926–31) and New Yorker (1944–48). In the 1930s he was much interested in the theories of Freud and Marx, ideas that are treated in many of his works. Among his major writings are Axel's Castle (1931), a study of symbolism (see symbolists) and other imaginative modernist literatures; The Wound and the Bow (1941); The Shores of Light (1952); and Patriotic Gore (1962), on the American Civil War.

As a critic Wilson was concerned with the social, psychological, and political conditions that shape literary ideas. His social studies include To the Finland Station (1940), a history of the European revolutionary tradition that praises the Soviet Union (a position he soon reversed), and The American Earthquake (1958), a record of the Great Depression. His versatility is further revealed in his I Thought of Daisy (1929), a novel; Memoirs of Hecate County (1949), short stories; and Five Plays (1954). Wilson also edited F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished The Last Tycoon and posthumous The Crack-up (both: 1945). His later works include Israel and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1955), A Window on Russia (1973), and The Devils and Canon Barham: 10 Essays on Poets, Novelists, and Monsters (1973). Wilson's third wife was the author Mary McCarthy.

See his autobiographical Piece of My Mind: Reflections at Sixty (1956) and Upstate: Records and Recollections of Northern New York (1971); his notebooks and diaries, ed. by L. Edel (4 vol., 1975–86); his letters, ed. by E. Wilson (1977); his letters with Vladimir Nabokov, ed. by S. Karlinsky (1979); other letters, ed. by D. Castronova and J. Groth (2002); memoirs of his daughter, R. Wilson (1989); biographies by C. P. Frank (1970), J. Groth (1989), J. Meyers (1995), and L. M. Dabney (2005); studies by G. Douglas (1983) and D. Castronovo (1984 and 1998); bibliography by R. D. Ramsey (1971).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Edmund Wilson: Selected full-text books and articles

Note-Books of Night By Edmund Wilson The Colt press, 1942
Night Thoughts By Edmund Wilson Farrar, Straus and Company, 1961
Henry Miller and the Critics By George Wickes Southern Illinois University Press, 1963
Librarian’s tip: "Twilight of the Expatriates" by Edmund Wilson begins on p. 25
A World More Attractive: A View of Modern Literature and Politics By Irving Howe Horizon Press, 1963
Librarian’s tip: "Edmund Wilson and the Sea Slugs" begins on p. 300
The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s By Alan M. Wald University of North Carolina Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "Other Dissident Writers and Critics on the Left: James T. Farrell, F. W. Dupee, Edmund Wilson" begins on p. 82
Important Nonsense By Lionel Abel Prometheus Books, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "In Defense of Edmund Wilson" begins on p. 221
The New Republic: A Voice of Modern Liberalism By David Seideman Praeger Publishers, 1986
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Edmund Wilson begins on p. 95
A Library of Literary Criticism: Modern American Literature By Dorothy Nyren; Dorothy Nyren Frederick Ungar, 1960 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Wilson, Edmund (1895- )" begins on p. 538
Encyclopedia of the Essay By Tracy Chevalier Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "Wilson, Edmund American, 1895-1972" begins on p. 899
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