Born September 9, 1901, in Exeter, New Hampshire, to Frank Stevens and Carrie Weston (Horne) Hicks, Granville Hicks earned his A.B. and M.A. degrees from Harvard University. In 1925 he married Dorothy Dyer, with whom he had a daughter, Stephanie.
From 1925-1928 Hicks taught at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts as an instructor in biblical literature. He was an assistant professor of English at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1929-35) and a counselor in American civilization at Harvard (1938-39). For three years (1955-1958) he taught novel writing at the New School for Social Research in New York. He was a visiting professor at New York University (1959), Syracuse University (1960), and Ohio University (1967-68). He was the director of the Yaddo artists' community beginning in 1942 and later served as its acting executive director. For 35 years (1930-1965) he was the literary advisor to Macmillan Publishers.
Hicks died June 18, 1982, in Franklin Park, New Jersey.
Hicks was a highly influential Marxist literary critic during the 1930s, well-known for his involvement in a number of celebrated causes (including his well-publicized resignation from the Communist Party in 1939). He established his reputation as an important literary critic with the 1933 publication of The Great Tradition: An Interpretation of American Literature since the Civil War, a systematic history of American literature from a Marxist perspective.
In 1932 he voted for the Communist Party ticket and joined almost all the significant Communist party front groups of the 1930s. In 1934 Hicks joined the Communist Party itself and became editor of its cultural magazine The New Masses. In 1935 Hicks was let go from his teaching position at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a dismissal he claimed was politically motivated although school officials denied this. He continued to teach at various institutions but devoted more and more of his time to writing. In 1936 Hicks was asked to co-write John Reed: The Making of a Revolutionary, a biography of radical journalist John Reed. Communist Party chairman Earl Browder pressured Hicks to remove several passages that reflected negatively on the Soviet Union, but in the end the book was praised for its even-handed and unbiased presentation.
In 1939, in protest against the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, Hicks resigned from the Communist Party. He attempted to organize an independent left-wing alternative organization, but with little success. By 1940 he had entirely renounced Communism and termed himself a democratic socialist; that same year he wrote an essay for The Nation entitled, "The Blind Alley of Marxism." During the 1950s Hicks testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee twice, and in 1954 in his essay titled "The Liberals Who Haven't Learned," he "unambiguously characterized the aim of communism as 'brutal revolutionary totalitarianism,' and chided liberals for providing a 'verbal cloak of "social betterment"' for the Soviets."
By the time Hicks died, his early radical/Marxist writings were balanced by his later turn to a broader, more humanistic criticism.
In addition to his books, Hicks wrote a number of articles for various publications including American Mercury, Pacific Weekly, Antioch Review, Harper's, Sewanee Review, New York Times Book Review, The Bookman, Esquire, New Republic, and Nation. He also wrote the introduction to John Reed's "Ten Days that Shook the World" Modern Library (New York, NY), 1935.
Eight Ways of Looking at Christianity, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1926.
The Great Tradition: An Interpretation of American Literature since the Civil War, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1933, revised 1933, revised edition with a new foreword and afterword, Quadrangle (New York, NY), 1969.
One of Us: The Story of John Reed. Equinox Cooperative Press (New York, NY), 1935.
(Editor, with others) Proletarian Literature in the United States, International Publishers (New York, NY), 1935.
(With John Stuart) John Reed: The Making of a Revolutionary, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1936, reprinted, Arno (New York, NY), 1968.
I Like America, Modern Age Books (New York, NY), 1938.
Figures of Transition: A Study of British Literature at the End of the Nineteenth Century, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1939, reprinted, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1969.
Small Town, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1946, reprinted, Fordham University Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Where We Came Out, Viking (New York, NY), 1954.
Part of the Truth (autobiography), Harcourt (New York, NY), 1965.
James Gould Cozzens, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1966.
Literary Horizons: A Quarter Century of American Fiction, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1970.
Granville Hicks in the New Masses, Kennikat (Port Washington, NY), 1974.
Long, Terry L. Granville Hicks Twayne (Boston, MA), 1981
Levenson, Leah and Natterstad, Jerry. Granville Hicks: The Intellectual in Mass Society. Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1993.
The First to Awaken, Macmillan, (New York, NY), 1940
Only One Storm, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1942.
Behold Trouble, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1944.
There was a Man in our Town, Viking (New York, NY) 1952