Archibald MacLeish

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Archibald MacLeish (1944)

Archibald MacLeish (born May 7, 1892 in Glencoe , Cook County , Illinois , †  April 20, 1982 in Boston , Massachusetts ) was an American poet and politician . From 1939 to 1944 he was also head of the Library of Congress .

Professional and political career

Archibald MacLeish was born the son of a haberdashery and college professor. From 1907 to 1911 he attended the renowned Hotchkiss School in Massachusetts. From 1911 to 1915 he studied English literature at Yale University , 1915-1919 at Harvard University law. While studying at Yale, he was accepted into the Skull and Bones Student Association there. In 1916 he married Ada Hitchcock. The marriage resulted in four children, one of whom died in childbed. In 1917 he interrupted his studies to serve on the French front during the First World War , first as an ambulance driver and later as an artillery captain.

In 1917 he also published his first volume of poetry. After being admitted to the bar , he initially worked in his field and was also briefly editor of The New Republic magazine , but then decided to pursue a career as a writer. In 1923 he moved to Paris with his wife . At that time, the Montparnasse there was the focus of American modernism , and MacLeish thus fell into the circle of the so-called Lost Generation , i.e. the American community of exiles around Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway . He did not return to the United States until 1928.

From 1930 to 1938 he was editor of Fortune magazine and became increasingly involved in political debates, particularly against fascism, which was also gaining ground in the United States. He was an admirer of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt , who made him head of the Library of Congress in 1939 . He held this position for five years, during which he modernized the Library of Congress.

During the Second World War , he was also appointed head of the Ministry of Defense of the United States assumed the Office of Facts and Figures appointed; in this capacity and as deputy director of the United States Office of War Information , he was also active in war propaganda . From December 1944 to August 1945 he served as the first Secretary of State for Public Relations ( Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs ) at the United States Department of State . After the end of the war, he represented the United States at UNESCO for a year after it was founded.

Although he had criticized Marxism in his career , he came in the 1940s and 1950s first into the focus of J. Edgar Hoover , later Joseph McCarthy , who suspected him of leftist political leanings. The main reason for this was his commitment to anti-fascist organizations like the League of American Writers and his friendship with prominent authors from the left political spectrum. A victim of this slander was MacLeish's deputy in the Office of Facts and Figures , Malcolm Cowley , who was ousted from office after a few months.

From 1949 to 1962 he was Professor of Rhetoric at Harvard University . From 1963 to 1967 he taught at Amherst College .

The literary work

During his time in Paris, MacLeish was strongly influenced by the poetry of TS Eliot and Ezra Pound and is therefore often assigned to the tradition of “waste land” poets.

Some critics, however, deny his work any originality. His poem Ars Poetica (compare it with the poem of the same name by Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński ) contains one of the most stringent - if not exactly subtle - formulations of modernist poetics : "A poem should not mean / but be." Poem should not mean / but be. "

In his poem " You, Andrew Marvell ", with the title of which he addresses this metaphysical poet of the 17th century by name, he refers to Marvell's famous poem " To his coy mistress ". As Blanke emphasizes in his interpretation, MacLeish “like Marvell's lover enters the flow of time without being able to find a place where he is safe from the loss of space and time.” As the metaphysicians of the 17th century can for MacLeish not "the act of love as such, but only its imaginative perpetuation overcoming time."

In 1933 and 1953 he won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry , in 1959 a Pulitzer Prize for his drama JB in 1933 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1950 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .

MacLeish also wrote some radio plays.


Work editions

A complete edition of MacLeish's works is still pending, but many of his poems, dramas, essays, letters and interviews are available in anthologies:

  • Six Plays . Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1980, ISBN 0395284198 (dramas)
  • Collected Poems 1917-1982 . Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1985, ISBN 0395394171 (Collected Poems).
  • A continuing journey . Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1968 (essays).
  • Riders on the Earth: Essays and Recollections . Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1978, ISBN 0395263824 (essays and autobiographical writings).
  • Archibald MacLeish: Letters 1907-1982 . Edited by RH Winnick. Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1983, ISBN 039532159X (letters).
  • The Dialogues of Archibald MacLeish and Mark Van Doren . Edited by Warren V. Bush. EP Dutton, New York 1964 (correspondence with Mark Van Doren ).
  • Archibald MacLeish: Reflections . Edited by Bernard A. Drabeck and Helen E. Ellis. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst 1986, ISBN 0870235117 (interviews).


  • Edward J. Mullaly: Archibald MacLeish: A Checklist . Kent State University Press, Kent OH 1973, ISBN 0873381327 (= Serif Series: Bibliographies and Checklists 26).
  • Helen E. Ellis, Bernard A. Brabeck, and Margaret EC Howland: Archibald MacLeish: A Selectively Annotated Bibliography . Scarecrow Press, Lanham, MD and London 1995, ISBN 0810830221 .

Secondary literature

  • Michael Augspurger: Archibald MacLeish and Professional Leadership . In: College Literature 36: 4, 2009, pp. 1-24.
  • Armin Paul Frank: Archibald MacLeish and the Theme of Imminent War , in: Armin Paul Frank: Off-Canon Pleasures: A Case Study and a Perspective . Universitätsverlag Göttingen 2011. open access available
  • Gustav Blanke: Archibald MacLeish: You, Andrew Marvell. In: Klaus Lubbers (Ed.): The American Poetry - From Colonial Times to the Present . Bagel Verlag, Düsseldorf 1974, ISBN 3513 02215 8 , pp. 269-277
  • Scott Donaldson: Archibald MacLeish: An American Life . Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1992, ISBN 0395493269 .
  • William H. MacLeish: Uphill with Archie: A Son's Journey . Simon & Schuster, New York 2001, ISBN 0684824957 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gustav Blanke: Archibald MacLeish · You, Andrew Marvell. In: Klaus Lubbers (Ed.): The American Poetry - From Colonial Times to the Present . Bagel Verlag, Düsseldorf 1974, ISBN 3513 02215 8 , p. 275
  2. ^ Gustav Blanke: Archibald MacLeish · You, Andrew Marvell. In: Klaus Lubbers (Ed.): The American Poetry - From Colonial Times to the Present . Bagel Verlag, Düsseldorf 1974, ISBN 3513 02215 8 , p. 277
  3. ^ Members: Archibald MacLeish. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed April 11, 2019 .