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(525 words)

Author(s): Koester, Helmut | Meller, Horst
[German Version] 1. Amos Niven (Sep 18, 1895, Madison, WI – May 1, 1993, Cambridge, MA), New Testament scholar and poet. From 1916 to 1918, Wilder served as a volunteer in the Balkans and France. He studied at Oberlin College, Oxford, Harvard, and Yale, receiving his Ph.D. in 1933; he taught at the Andover Newton Theological Seminary (1933–1943), the University of Chicago (1943–1954), and Harvard (1954–1963). He emphasized the relationship of mythology and symbolism to the historical reality of the p…

O’Neill, Eugene Gladstone

(412 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Oct 16, 1888, New York – Nov 27, 1953, Boston, MA) is considered the founder of serious American dramatic art; in 1936 he became the second American to receive the Nobel Prize. O’Neill had Irish Catholic parents of dubious social status. His father starred in melodrama on the commercial stage in the United States, and between 1883 and 1912 played the title role in The Count of Monte Cristo almost 4,000 times. His mother came from the affluent middle class. The fact that O’Neill was born in a shabby hotel and died in a hotel is indicative of a lif…

Williams, Tennessee

(268 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (actually Thomas Lanier; Mar 26, 1911, Columbus, MS – Feb 24, 1983, New York), a pioneer of realistic tragic drama in the United ¶ States. Williams, the son of a travelling salesman, studied in Missouri, Iowa, and at Columbia University. He was working for a film studio in Hollywood when his family tragedy The Glass Menagerie (1945), a psychoanalytic study of the neurotically frustrated Laura Wingfield, became his first theatrical success. In A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), the fantasy world of a conservative Southern way of life collides with the anima…


(902 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst | Mahler, Andreas
[German Version] 1. William (Apr 7, 1770, Cockermouth – Apr 23, 1850, Grasmere), leading English poet of the early Romantic period (Romanticism). He was the son of a lawyer representing a wealthy estate owner. Orphaned in 1783, the young poet was shaped more by his school years in Hawkshead and the natural beauty of life in the Lake District of northern England than by Cambridge and early industrial London. A walking tour through ¶ France during his last summer break, when the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille was being celebrated, turned the student a…

Vaughan, Henry

(184 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Apr 17, 1622, Llansaintffraed, Wales – Apr 23, 1695, Newton-by-Usk, Wales). In 1638 Henry Vaughan and his twin brother Thomas, a philosopher in the hermetic tradition, entered Jesus College in Oxford. He studied law in London, but practiced as a country doctor in Brecon and Newton after 1655. The chaos of the Civil War and a world turned upside down, which he experienced as an Anglican royalist, have been thought responsible for the spiritual and intellectual transformation that …

Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel

(179 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Jan 3, 1892, Bloemfontein, South Africa – Sep 2, 1973, Bournemouth, England), English philologist, poet, and novelist. Tolkien studied at Oxford, where he was appointed professor of Anglo-Saxon in 1925 and professor of English language and literature in 1945. His first book was A Middle English Vocabulary (1922), his second Songs for the Philologist (1936). His essay “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” (1937) was much admired by his colleagues. In the same year he published The Hobbit, a children’s book, in which the loveable hobbit Bilbo Baggins sets…

Shakespeare, William

(1,792 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (baptized Apr 26, 1564, Stratford-upon-Avon, England – Apr 23, 1616, Stratford), poet and playwright, actor and director. Shakespeare entered the world as a third child and first son in the county of Warwickshire in the english midlands. His father John was a glove-maker and merchant, who had achieved a degree of prosperity and held various honorary positions in Stratford (alderman, chief alderman, mayor) even before he was granted a family crest by the royal College of Arms in 15…

Williams, Charles Walter Stansby

(180 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Sep 20, 1886, Holloway, London – May 15, 1945, Oxford), British writer, critic, and theologian. Williams gave voice to his Christian faith and his reflections on good and evil and the relationship between human beings and God in a wide range of media: not only in meditative poetry but between 1936 and 1941 in a verse drama about T. Cranmer, the English archbishop of Canterbury, who was burned as a heretic in 1556, as well as covertly in studies of the traditional king Arthur poetry: Taliessin through Logres (1938) and The Region of the Summer Stars (1944). Besides his work…

Tennyson, Alfred Lord

(188 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Aug 6, 1809, Somersby – Oct 6, 1892, Aldworth), the most renowned Victorian poet. He was the son of a clergyman, from whom he received most of his instruction. In 1827 he enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge. The sudden death of a college friend in 1833 cast a pall of melancholy over his life. Even before he published his elegiac major poem In Memoriam (1850), he had already become the voice of his era. The musicality and humanistic depth of works like “The Lotos-Eaters” (1832), “Locksley Hall” (1842), “Ulysses” (1842), and “The Princess” …

Spenser, Edmund

(300 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (c. 1552, London – Jan 16, 1599, London). For centuries Spenser, the son of a clothmaker, has been among the luminaries of English poetry. As a scholarship student at Cambridge, he became known through his friendship with the poet P. Sidney, to whom he dedicated his “Shepherd’s Calendar” in 1579 and whose early death he lamented in his classic elegy “Astrophel” (1586). Thanks to his relationship with Sidney and his friends, who were close to the court, Spenser was appointed admini…

Waugh, Evelyn Arthur St. John

(212 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Oct 28, 1903, London – Apr 10, 1966, Combe Florey, Somerset), a great prose stylist, was the son of a publisher; he began his literary career early, as editor of his school magazine. After studying in Oxford and London, he worked briefly as a schoolmaster until his satirical social novels ( Decline and Fall, 1928; Vile Bodies, 1930; A Handful of Dust, 1934) brought him financial success. In 1930, after the failure of his first marriage, he became a Catholic. The problems of faith in the midst of a world he experienced as godless informed his subsequent works. Besides historic…

Traherne, Thomas

(178 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (1637[?], Hereford – Sep 27, 1674, Teddington), poet and mystic, closely related to the metaphysical poets. The son of a shoemaker, he was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford. In 1657 he became a parish priest in Credenhill; in 1667 he was appointed chaplain to Sir Orland Bridgeman, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, in whose house he spent his last years. His anti-Catholic polemic Roman Forgeries ¶ (1673) and his posthumously published treatise Christian Ethics (1675) found little response, but his vivid religious poetry – first discovered in manuscript …

Marlowe, Christopher

(396 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (baptized Feb 26, 1564, Canterbury – May 30, 1593, Deptford), next to W. Shakespeare and Ben Jonson the most powerfully eloquent poet of the theater in Elizabethan England. The son of a shoemaker was a scholarship student at Cambridge and an adventurous informer in Elizabeth's secret service. He was denounced as a homosexual and an atheist, and at the age of 29 was stabbed to death under unclear circumstances in a fight at a lodging house. After Humanistic apprentice pieces (translations of Ovid's Amores and the first book of Lucan's Pharsalia), he and Thomas Nash wrote The …

Yeats, William Butler

(211 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Jun 13, 1865, Sandymount, Ireland – Jan 28, 1939, Roquebrune, France), Irish poet, playwright, and mystic. Yeats was the son of a Protestant lawyer in Sligo. After attending the Metropolitan School of Art, in 1887 he joined the circle of the Decadents and the Yellow Book in London, where he was one of the founders of the Rhymers’ Club. Politically he championed the Celtic Revival; religiously he was sympathetic to theosophy and Rosicrucianism (Rosicrucians). In 1917 he married a …

Sidney, Sir Philip

(179 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Nov 30, 1554, Penshurst, Kent – Oct 17, 1586, Zutphen, Holland), the most illustrious literary figure of the English High Renaissance: innovative poet, brilliant courtier, cosmopolitan diplomat. Queen Elizabeth I sent him to Rudolf II in imperial Prague and to the later head of the Protestant Union in Heidelberg in the Electoral Palatinate. In Italy he was influenced by Neoplatonism; he was in Paris during the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre; in London he engaged in philosophical …

Metaphysical Poets

(357 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] Used as a technical term in the history of English literature, “metaphysical poets” refers to a specific category of Elizabethan and Jacobean lyricists between W. Shakespeare and J. Milton. The concept was introduced in the 18th century with a strong negative connotation. Given a positive turn (as propagated by Herbert John Clifford Grierson and T.S. Eliot at the beginning of the 20th cent.), the works of the poets whom Samuel Johnson had criticized may be classified according to …

Wilde, Oscar

(323 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Oct 16, 1854, Dublin – Nov 30, 1900, Paris), Irish playwright, novelist, and poet. Wilde, the son of a doctor, studied in Dublin and Oxford. He declared himself a disciple of Walter Pater, adhering to the credo of “art for art’s sake” and becoming part of the “aesthetic movement.” Like J. Ruskin, he considered the healing power of art to increase with the advance of high capitalism. After his first volume of poetry (1878) and a reading tour through America (1882), The Happy Prince and Other Tales appeared in 1888, written for his two sons by a marriage contracted …

O’Connor, Flannery

(172 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Mar 25, 1925, Savannah, GA – Aug 4, 1964, Atlanta, GA), American story-teller who dissects with cool irony and black humor the consumerist, psychologically impoverished society of the southern United States in the early years of the Cold War. Her often shrilly satirical short stories, collected in A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955) and Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965), and her novels Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960), ensured a broad readership and admission to the academic canon. Her life was governed by unwavering Cathol…

Young, Edward

(180 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Jul 3, 1683, Upham – Apr 5, 1765, Welwyn), English playwright and poet. He began as a jurist in Oxford; he met with little success as a poet and tragedian, but finally as an Anglican priest he found a position as royal chaplain. After the death of his wife, he wrote The Complaint, or Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality (1742–1744), a monumental, lengthy poem in blank verse, which brought him international fame. Somber piety, a humble assurance of faith, and the impression of genuine sensibility made his Night Thoughts – meant as a response to Alexander Pope’…

Hawthorne, Nathaniel

(190 words)

Author(s): Meller, Horst
[German Version] (Aug 4, 1804, Salem, MA – May 19, 1864, Plymouth, NH), Romantic master of American fiction and classical interpreter of New England Puritanism (Puritans/Puritanism). One of his ancestors, a judge in the 18th-century Salem witchcraft trials and immortalized by Hawthorne in the patriarch of The House of the Seven Gables (1851), stands under the family curse: “God will give him blood to drink.” In 1808 Hawthorne's father, a ship's captain, died of yellow fever in Surinam, leaving the family impoverished. After graduation from colle…
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