Matthiessen, F. O. (Francis Otto Matthiessen)măthˈĭsĕn, 1902–50, American critic, b. Pasadena, Calif., grad. Yale Univ., 1923, B.Litt., Oxford, 1925, Ph.D., Harvard, 1927. A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, he was professor of history and literature at Harvard (1929–50). As a critic Matthiessen was interested in the history of American literature and the relationship of literature to society. He was a devout Christian and a committed socialist. His works include Sarah Orne Jewett (1929), American Renaissance (1941), Henry James: The Major Phase (1944), and Theodore Dreiser (1951). Some recent scholars argue that Matthieseen's fears of the exposure of his left-wing activities and his homosexuality contributed to his suicide.