Concept

Robert Hillyer

Summary
Robert Silliman Hillyer (June 3, 1895 – December 24, 1961) was an American poet and professor of English literature. He won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1934. Hillyer was born in East Orange, New Jersey to an old Connecticut family. He attended Kent School in Kent, Connecticut. After high school, he attended Harvard University, graduating cum laude in 1917. While there, he was the editor of the literary magazine The Harvard Advocate, and was affiliated with the group known as the Harvard Aesthetes. When World War I began, he went to France and volunteered for the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, along with Harvard classmate John Dos Passos. Once the United States entered the war, he joined the American forces. After serving as an ambulance driver, Hillyer later returned to France to work in the US Ordnance Department. After the Armistice, Hillyer worked as a military courier for the 1919 peace conference in Paris. For a while Hillyer and John Dos Passos shared a flat in Paris and even collaborated on an unpublished novel which they called "Great Novel" (or "G.N.", or "Seven Times round the Walls of Jericho"). Eventually the novel was abandoned in 1921 even though Dos Passos said that Hillyer's contributions had "genuineness" and "more tone than mine." Hillyer became a professor of English at Harvard University in 1919. In the late 1920s, he taught at Trinity College and was made a member of the Epsilon chapter of the literary fraternity St. Anthony Hall in 1927. From 1937 to 1944, he was named to the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard. From 1948 to 1951 Hillyer was a visiting professor at Kenyon College. He also taught at the University of Delaware from 1952 until his death. While at Delaware Hillyer did various regular poetry readings between 1953-1960 which were recorded and are now available for listening through the university's archives. Over his academic life, Hillyer taught a number of writers (and poets) who later became well-known such as Theodore Roethke, James Gould Cozzens, Howard Nemerov, James Agee, Norman Mailer, Robert Fitzgerald and John Simon.
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