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Quentin Anderson (191218 February, 2003) was an American literary critic and cultural historian at Columbia University. His research focused on 19th century American authors, especially Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman, and their attempts to define American identity as both connected to and differentiated from European precedents.


Anderson was born in Minnewaukan, North Dakotamarker. The son of playwright Maxwell Anderson, he moved with his father to Palo Alto, Californiamarker and then San Franciscomarker after the latter was dismissed from his high school teaching job for his pacifist views. The family then moved to New York Citymarker, where Quentin spent his formative years. During the Great Depression, he worked as a mechanic, a grave digger, and as a stage extra on Broadwaymarker.

Quentin thereafter began his long career in academia. He studied with Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling at Columbia College, where he earned his B.A. in 1940. After serving in the civilian defense corps in Rockland County, New Yorkmarker, he earned his M.A. at Harvardmarker in 1945 before returning to Columbia to complete his Ph.D. in 1953. He was named a full professor at the university's English Department in 1961 and chaired a disciplinary committee following the protests of 1968. In 1978 he was named the Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities and was granted a senior fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1973-4. From 1979-80 he was a fellow at the National Humanities Center. He died of heart failure in 2003.

He was known as an inspirational conveyor of knowledge during his time as professor at Columbia.

Anderson lived at 29 Claremont Avenue.

Major Works

  • Making Americans (1992)
  • The Imperial Self (1971)
  • The American Henry James (1957)


Anderson married Thelma Anderson. He had two sons (Maxwell and Abraham and a daughter (Martha). At the time of his death, he had one grandson, Chase.

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