Famous Writers Who Flourished In Academia

Academic Writers

A meeting of doctors at the University of Paris
A meeting of doctors at the University of Paris | Source

Writers From Within the University System

Despite the popularity of writers, who are outside the mainstream academic institutions, many successful authors end up either working for the status quo or having their best literary works serve as study material in collegiate literature classes. Often this second scenario occurs after the author has passed on, but nonetheless, there still are numerous accomplished writers, who create their best work, while employed with major colleges or universities. Take for example, one of the most celebrated of the Beat Poets, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who opened the famed City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, only after earning a Masters degree at Columbia University and a doctorate from the Sorbonne, which is part of the University of Paris.

Longfellow Square In Portland

Statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Portland, Maine
Statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Portland, Maine | Source

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Though Longfellow was born early in the history of this nation before any substantial homegrown literary movement had developed, he lived long enough to see the success of many American writers, including his own. Henry was born in Portland, Maine in 1807 and lived there until going away to attend nearby Bowdoin College. After his graduation Longfellow first traveled to Europe, then was offered a teaching position at his alma mater. At age 27 Henry was offered a prestigious chair at Harvard teaching foreign languages. It was from this respected position that Henry began publishing his poems and other writings. Henry stayed in Cambridge for the rest of his life, but resigned from Harvard, 20 years later just before his publication of The Song of Hiawatha. After leaving the Ivy League college, the writer continued to live in Cambridge and enjoy the rich intellectual community that surrounded the college.

Tolkien During WWI

During WWI Tolkien served in the Signal Corp for Great Britain
During WWI Tolkien served in the Signal Corp for Great Britain | Source

Tolkien

"The English-speaking world is divided into those who have read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and those who are going to read them."― (London) Sunday Times

All you have to do is mention this guy's name and immediately, there is a wide recognition of great storytelling. The recent success of the Lord of the Rings movies does nothing but enhance the reputation of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, more commonly known as J.R.R. Tolkien. Today, Tolkien is generally recognized as one of the foremost fantasy authors of the 20th century and often cited as someone responsible for reviving the genre. From 1925 until 1959 Tolkien taught Anglo-Saxon and English Literature at Merton College in Oxford, England. It is reported that the inspiration for Lord of the Rings came while he was grading papers.

Clive Staples Lewis

C.S. Lewis in 1947
C.S. Lewis in 1947 | Source

Tolkien's Counterpart

It would difficult to mention Tolkien without giving equal time to his co-conspirator at Oxford, C.S. Lewis. More formally known as Clive Staples, C.S. Lewis began teaching at Magdalene College (a small part of Oxford) after receiving a rare triple award for his academic studies. During his tenure at Oxford, he began publishing short stories, novels and philosophical essays. Along with Tolkien, Lewis participated in the Inklings, a casual discussion group at Oxford that advocated narrative and fantasy within the realm of fictional writing. In 1954, Lewis was awarded a fellow at Cambridge, which he maintained until he died on that same infamous day in November 1963, when John Kennedy was killed. Originally from Ireland, Lewis is probably best known for his Chronicles of Narnia. This is a series of seven fantasy novels that feature a talking lion as the principle character.

At Columbia University

Gary Snyder speaking at Columbia University in 2007 at age 77
Gary Snyder speaking at Columbia University in 2007 at age 77 | Source

Gary Snyder

Perhaps Gary Snyder's first claim to fame came as being the inspiration for Japhy Ryder, a major character in Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, which was published in 1958, right after On The Road. Originally from the Bay Area, Snyder became a major voice of the Beat Generation. His literary career began with publication of Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, a book of poems that was first released in Japan in 1959. His literary career has included numerous volumes of poetry, several academic degrees and a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Snyder's academic training began with a scholarship to Reed College in Oregon. Following that he received a graduate degree from Indiana University in Anthropology and since 1986, he has been a professor at the University Of California at Davis, where he has worked extensively with young students, as they pursue a writing career.

Recent MacArthur Award Winner

Deborah Eisenberg  speaking at Tulane University in 2009, the same year she won the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship
Deborah Eisenberg speaking at Tulane University in 2009, the same year she won the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship | Source

The Quiet Writer

Although Deborah Eisenberg is not a household name, she is widely regarded as a master of the literary short story. While interest in the short story has declined, Deborah Eisenberg has worked hard at perfecting her craft. A short list of prestigious grants and awards will attest to this accomplishment. Along with the MacArthur Fellowship in 2009, Eisenberg has also received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, four O'Henry Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Whiting Writing Award. Born in a well-to-do suburb of Chicago, Eisenberg teaches at the University of Virginia. Since 1986, she has published six short story collections and one play.

A Parting View

Northwest facade of the Chambord Castle in the Loire Valley of France
Northwest facade of the Chambord Castle in the Loire Valley of France | Source

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