One of the nation's leading literary biographers, Scott Donaldson has written eight books about 20th century American authors. These include Poet in America: Winfield Townley Scott (1972), By Force of Will: The Life and Art of Ernest Hemingway (1977), Fool for Love, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1983), John Cheever: A Biography (1988), Archibald MacLeish: An American Life (1992), winner of the 1993 Ambassador Book Award for biography, Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald: The Rise and Fall of a Literary Friendship (1999), which has been translated into seven languages, Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet's Life (2007), named the best biography of the year by Contemporary Poetry Forum, Fitzgerald and Hemingway: Works and Days (2009), and Death of a Rebel: The Charlie Fenton Story (2011). He explores has experiences as a biographer, as well as those of others in the field, in The Impossible Craft: Literary Biography (2015).
Donaldson has published many articles on American literature and culture and edited a number of books, among them Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" (1984), Conversations with John Cheever (1987), New Essays on "A Farewell to Arms" (1990), the Cambridge Companion to Hemingway (1996), and Robinson: Poems (2007) , in the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series.
After beginning his career as a newspaper reporter and editor in Minneapolis, Donaldson decided he wanted to write something that would not be used to wrap the fish in. So he went back to school, took his PhD in American Studies at the University of Minnesota in 1966, and journeyed east to teach -- and write -- at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, retiring in 1992 as Louise G.T. Cooley Professor or English, Emeritus.
Awards and Positions
During his academic career, Donaldson was twice a Fulbright senior lecturer, in Finland and Italy. He spent a year teaching as the Bruern fellow at the University of Leeds in England, and a semester as a visiting fellow at Princeton, where he read through the Fitzgerald archive.
He received two major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support his research and writing, as well as awards from the Rockefeller foundation, the MacDowell Colony, the American Philosophical Society, and William and Mary. In 1994 he was listed among prominent 20th century Virginia authors by the Virginia Center for the book. In 1996 he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and given the MidAmerica award for contributions to midwestern literature. He won both the Sewanee Review's Monroe K. Spears prize (1999) for best essay and the journal's Robert Heilman prize (2002) for book reviewing.
Donaldson was a founding director of the Fulbright Alumni Association, and for several years evaluated applicants for senior Fulbright awards for the Center for the International Exchange of Scholars. During the 1980s he served four-year terms as an editor of American Literature and as author of the chapter on Hemingway and Fitzgerald in American Literary Scholarship.
In 1999 he was elected to the board of the Hemingway Foundation/Society, which holds biennial conferences in the United States and abroad, publishes The Hemingway Review, makes grants to young scholars, and annually gives the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award for the best first work of fiction. From 2000 through 2002 he served as president of the foundation.
Now living in Scottsdale, with summers in San Diego, Donaldson continutes to write books, articles, and review essays.