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The Scarlet Professor: Newton Arvin: A Literary Life Shattered by Scandal
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The Scarlet Professor: Newton Arvin: A Literary Life Shattered by Scandal

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  81 ratings  ·  10 reviews
During his thirty-seven years at Smith College, Newton Arvin published groundbreaking studies of Hawthorne, Whitman, Melville, and Longfellow that stand today as models of scholarship and psychological acuity. He cultivated friendships with the likes of Edmund Wilson and Lillian Hellman and became mentor to Truman Capote. A social radical and closeted homosexual, the circu ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 5th 2002 by Anchor (first published March 5th 2001)
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Aug 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I picked this book up after reading Arvin's classic bio of Herman Melville (which is itself worth checking out). Werth's treatment of the tale is reminiscent of the genre of non fiction I like to call "The Expanded New Yorker Article". That's fine, I love the New Yorker, but the weakness endemic to the genre is the feeling that 150 pages would suffice (and you're reading a three hundred page book). Regardless, I read the whole book and don't regret it.

Werth's treatment of Arvin's tortured feeli
Dec 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Newton Arvin, though a central figure in the early days of American literary studies, is not important enough or interesting enough to warrant a full-scale biography based solely on his accomplishments as a scholar and long-time professor at Smith College. Therefore, it is Arvin's life as a closeted homosexual and the scandal that ignominiously outed him that give this book its raison d'être. While Arvin himself is not always a sympathetic figure (when arrested, he was quick to try to save himse ...more
Michael Armijo
Nov 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Literary World revisited...

This book was given to me as a gift so I felt an urge to read it right away. It was a B+. It's about the literary life of Newton Arvin who was shattered by a scandal in 1960. I was born in 1959 so it was interesting to me to read of what was going on at the time. It ventures into the closeted homosexual literary elite. This book gave me other book ideas that I really want to read like: The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, Letters & Leadership by Van Wyck Brooks, Ro
Vincent Desjardins
Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
For much of his life, Newton Arvin (born in 1900) was a respected literary critic and award-winning author. But Arvin lived a tortured and repressed existence. His greatest fear was that the public would find out about his homosexual desires. His career as a professor at Smith college, where he had taught for almost 40 years, came to an end when the police raided his apartment and found a stash of pornography (really not much more than a collection of muscle magazines). The injustices commited a ...more
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading Barry Werth's The Scarlett Professor: Newton Arvin a Life Shattered by Scandal (New York: Nan A. Talese, 2001). At the same time I picked up the only book on Yaddo in the TPL system, Micki McGee's, Yaddo: Making American Culture (New York: The New York Public Library & Columbia University Press, 2008). The Yaddo book, an edited collection based on an exhibition at the New York Public Library includes a collection of essays about Yaddo and some of the luminaries who resi ...more
Jun 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group
It's fitting that I finished reading this book on a day when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision and a non-decision that advanced LGBTQ rights in the U.S.A. If you have moments of thinking that the United States has not progressed much over the last 50 to 100 years, this book will remind you of just how much some things here have progressed. It is a depressing account of a brilliant and talented scholar and critic whose life was in many ways ruined by the closet and by the idiotic discrimin ...more
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
This a very sad tale about a literary critic genius who is gay and cannot come to terms with this and whose times, the first half of the twentieth century cannot come to terms with homosexuality. For his first forty years he does not recognize the issue. Once he does he ends up in psychiatric hospitals having electro shock therapy. In his later years he is arrested for possession of pornography. It makes up pause and wonder how far we have come from those times in the not so distant past. If the ...more
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Four stars for the quality, though not a 'fun' read. Even before the historically important tragedy and injustice of Newton Arvin, Ned Spofford, and Joel Dorius', amongst others, arrest and downfall over privately owned gay erotica and porn, Arvin was a consistently self-tormenting guy. I am curious to read, and would have liked in the biography itself, more of Arvin's own work. For all of his self loathing, Arvin was at his peak one of the premiere American lit critics and biographers of Melvil ...more
Bobby Fieseler
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great use of diaries, publications, notes, etc. to crack the inner world of a real person.
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