Discipline: Writer, fiction, Writer, nonfiction

Edmund Wilson

Discipline: Writer, fiction, Writer, nonfiction
Region: New York, NY

Edward MacDowell Medalist: 1964

Edmund Wilson (1895-1972) was an American writer and critic who explored Freudian and Marxist themes. Wilson attended The Hill School, a college preparatory boarding school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1912. At Hill, Wilson served as the editor-in-chief of the school's literary magazine, The Record. From 1912 to 1916, he was educated at Princeton University. Wilson began his professional writing career as a reporter for the New York Sun, and served in the army with Base Hospital 36 from Detroit, Michigan, and later as a translator during the First World War.

Wilson was the managing editor of Vanity Fair in 1920 and 1921, and later served as associate editor of The New Republic and as a book reviewer for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. His works influenced novelists Upton Sinclair, John Dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Floyd Dell, and Theodore Dreiser. He served on the Dewey Commission, which set out to fairly evaluate the charges that led to the exile of Leon Trotsky. He wrote plays, poems, and novels, but his greatest influence was literary criticism.

Wilson condemned H. P. Lovecraft's tales as "hackwork" and heavily criticized J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as “juvenile trash.” Wilson's critical works helped foster public appreciation for several novelists: Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Vladimir Nabokov. He was instrumental in establishing the modern evaluation of the works of Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling. Wilson was a friend of the novelist and playwright Susan Glaspell as well as the philosopher Isaiah Berlin. He played a recurring role throughout Edna St Vincent Millay's life, from the time she was a foreign correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, 1921 to 1923, to the end of her life.