Famous 20th Century Critics & Connoisseurs

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 1 Lenny Bruce

Lenny Bruce
Famous As: Standup Comedian
Birthdate: October 13, 1925
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mineola, New York, United States
Died: August 3, 1966

Regarded as one of the best American stand-up comedians of all time, Lenny Bruce was renowned for his critical form of comedy. His conviction for obscenity played a major role in redefining freedom of speech in the US. He is also credited with inspiring several comedians of the counterculture era. His life and career have inspired several works of art.

 2 Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 18, 1939
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ottawa, Canada

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet and novelist. Her works encompass themes, such as religion and myth, climate change, and gender and identity. An award-winning writer, many of Atwood's works have been made into films and television series; her work, The Handmaid's Tale, has had several adaptations. Perhaps, Margaret Atwood's most important contribution is her invention of the LongPen device.

 3 Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 15, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Poitiers, France
Died: June 25, 1984

If others thought the body was the prison of the soul, Paul-Michel Foucault felt the other way round. The French philosopher, literary critic and Leftist who interpreted the link between power and knowledge, was a post-structuralist whose theories have left a mark on anthropology, psychology and criminology. The feminist was one of the noted personalities to have died of HIV/AIDS.

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 4 Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert
Famous As: Film critic
Birthdate: June 18, 1942
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Urbana, Illinois, United States
Died: April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert was an American journalist, author, screenwriter, film historian, and film critic. While working as a film critic for the daily newspaper Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert received the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, becoming the first film critic to be honored with the prestigious award. He was often described as America's most influential and prominent film critic of all time.

 5 George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: July 26, 1856
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Portobello, Dublin, Ireland
Died: November 2, 1950

Nobel Prize-winning playwright and author George Bernard Shaw was best known for his realism and his support for women’s rights and socialism. His ideas gave rise to the word “Shavian.” His drama Pygmalion inspired the musical My Fair Lady. His other notable works include Candida and Man and Superman.

 6 Lewis Black

Lewis Black
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: August 30, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

 7 Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 21, 1929
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berkeley, California, United States
Died: January 22, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin was an American author. In a career spanning almost six decades, Ursula wrote about political and social themes like race and sexuality. Throughout her career, Ursula had a major influence on speculative fiction. Her book A Wizard of Earthsea is credited with inspiring ideas like 'wizard school', which was later popularized in the Harry Potter series.

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 8 Jean-Luc Godard

Jean-Luc Godard
Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: December 3, 1930
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France

The Paris-born French-Swiss director and screenwriter has the reputation of adding new dimensions to filmmaking with his experimentation, a trend which came to be known as French New Wave. The director of acclaimed films like Breathless, My Life to Live and Pierrot le Fou, Jean-Luc Godard was married to actress Anna Karina. He is regarded as an all-time great director.

 9 Bell Hooks

Bell Hooks
Birthdate: September 25, 1952
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hopkinsville, Kentucky, United States
Died: December 15, 2021

 10 Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 28, 1903
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: West Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Died: April 10, 1966

Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was an English author, known for his novels, biographies, and travelogues. Hailed as the most brilliant satirical novelist of his day, he wrote mostly satires before WWII. But during the war, his writings took a serious turn; he published Brideshead Revisited in 1945, a book that continues to appear on the best books list till now.

 11 Maria Altmann

Maria Altmann
Famous As: Art Collector
Birthdate: February 18, 1916
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: February 7, 2011

Maria Altmann was an Austrian-American Jewish refugee who fled her home country fearing the Nazis. She is remembered for her successful legal campaign to reclaim Gustav Klimt's family-owned paintings from the Government of Austria, which were stolen during the Second World War by the Nazis. Her life and career inspired documentary films, novels, and feature films, including Woman in Gold.

 12 Paul Schrader

Paul Schrader
Famous As: Screenwriter
Birthdate: July 22, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

 13 Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 16, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Keyser, West Virginia

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is an American literary critic, historian, professor, filmmaker, and public intellectual. He is currently serving as the director of the Hutchins Center at Harvard University. Over the years Gates has been honored with several prestigious awards including the National Humanities Medal. In 1997, he was named in Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans list.

 14 Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes
Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: November 12, 1915
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France
Died: March 25, 1980
Born to middle-class parents in France, literary theorist and critic Roland Barthes explored Ferdinand de Saussure’s semiology and influenced fields such as structuralism. His iconic works, such as Mythologies and The Death of the Author, influenced later thinkers. He died of injuries sustained in a road accident at 64.

 15 John Updike

John Updike
Famous As: Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: March 18, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Reading, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: January 27, 2009

 16 Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo
Famous As: Chinese Human Rights Activist
Birthdate: December 28, 1955
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Changchun, China
Died: July 13, 2017

Liu Xiaobo was a Chinese activist, literary critic, and philosopher. He is best remembered for organizing campaigns that aimed at ending the one-party rule in China. He was honored with the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle for human rights in China. Liu is the first Chinese citizen to be honored with a Nobel Prize while residing in China.

 17 Gene Siskel

Gene Siskel
Famous As: Film critic. Journalist
Birthdate: January 26, 1946
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: February 20, 1999

 18 Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 8, 1959
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Canadian author Mark Steyn is best known for his bestselling books such as America Alone and After America. A political commentator and critic, too, he has been in the news for his controversial comments on the LGBT community. He has also hosted Fox shows such as Tucker Carlson Tonight.

 19 Fernando Pessoa

Fernando Pessoa
Famous As: Poet, Writer, Literary critic
Birthdate: June 13, 1888
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lisbon, Portugal
Died: November 30, 1935

Fernando Pessoa was a Portuguese poet, writer, translator, and publisher. A prolific writer, he is considered one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century. While he mostly wrote in the Portuguese language, he also wrote in English and French occasionally. Besides writing under his own name, he also wrote under approximately 75 other names.

 20 Stanisław Lem

Stanisław Lem
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 12, 1921
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lviv, Ukraine
Died: March 27, 2006

 21 Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 15, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: September 26, 1940

Walter Benjamin was a German Jewish essayist, philosopher, and cultural critic. An eclectic thinker, Benjamin made significant contributions to literary criticism, aesthetic theory, and historical materialism. Although Benjamin's work did not earn much recognition during his lifetime, it continues to be revered by academics several years after his death.

 22 Andre Aciman

Andre Aciman
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 2, 1951
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Alexandria, Egypt

 23 Jacqueline Roque

Jacqueline Roque
Famous As: choreographer, painter, model
Birthdate: February 24, 1926
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris
Died: October 15, 1986

 24 Robert Christgau

Robert Christgau
Famous As: Journalist, Reporter, Essayist, Writer, Music critic
Birthdate: April 18, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Greenwich Village

 25 Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 26, 1880
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: November 9, 1918

French poet Guillaume Apollinaire was a significant figure of the avant-garde movement. It is believed he had coined the terms Cubism, Surrealism, and Orphism. Known for his iconic poem Chanson du mal-aimé, written after being rejected by a lover, he also developed the typography-based concrete poetry in the collection Calligrammes.

 26 Danny Baker

Danny Baker
Famous As: Disc jockey, Presenter, Journalist, Music critic
Birthdate: June 22, 1957
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Deptford

 27 Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar
Famous As: Comics artist, Autobiographer, Writer, Music critic, Journalist
Birthdate: October 8, 1939
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cleveland
Died: July 12, 2010

 28 Eugene Ionesco

Eugene Ionesco
Famous As: Playwright and dramatist
Birthdate: November 26, 1909
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Slatina, Romania Slatina, Romania
Died: March 28, 1994

 29 Harold Bloom

Harold Bloom
Famous As: Most famous literary critic in the English-speaking world 2017
Birthdate: July 11, 1930
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: October 14, 2019

 30 George Plimpton

George Plimpton
Famous As: Journalists
Birthdate: March 18, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Died: September 26, 2003

 31 Rupert Sheldrake

Rupert Sheldrake
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 28, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England, UK

 32 Kurt Loder

Kurt Loder
Famous As: Film critic
Birthdate: May 5, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Ocean City, New Jersey, U.S.

 33 Robert Mondavi

Robert Mondavi
Famous As: Winegrower
Birthdate: June 18, 1913
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Virginia
Died: May 16, 2008

 34 Leonard Maltin

Leonard Maltin
Famous As: Journalist, Art historian, Film critic, Screenwriter, Writer, University teacher
Birthdate: December 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City

 35 Michael Winner

Michael Winner
Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: October 30, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hampstead, London, England
Died: January 21, 2013

 36 William Ernest Henley

William Ernest Henley
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 23, 1849
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gloucester, England
Died: July 11, 1903

Best known for his short poem Invictus, William Ernest Henley was a Victorian-era British poet and author. A disease he contracted in childhood caused one of his legs to be amputated. It is believed, he was the inspiration behind the crippled character Long John Silver in RL Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

 37 Mikhail Bakhtin

Mikhail Bakhtin
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: November 17, 1895
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Oryol, Russia
Died: March 7, 1975
Mikhail Bakhtin was a Russian philosopher, scholar, and literary critic who worked on ethics, literary theory, and the philosophy of language. Bakhtin's writings inspired scholars who were working on various traditions, such as structuralism, semiotics, religious criticism, and Marxism. Mikhail Bakhtin is also credited with influencing various Western schools of theory.

 38 Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton
Famous As: Literary critic
Birthdate: February 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: County Borough of Salford Salford, England

English literary theorist and critic Terry Eagleton, presently serving as Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, is a prominent critic of postmodernism and the New Atheism. His oeuvre includes over forty books among which Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983), which describes the emerging literary theory of the period, is considered to be one of his most notable works.   

 39 Rex Reed

Rex Reed
Famous As: Actor, Film actor, Journalist
Birthdate: October 2, 1938
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Fort Worth

 40 Julia Kristeva

Julia Kristeva
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 24, 1941
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sliven, Bulgaria

 41 Olivier Assayas

Olivier Assayas
Famous As: Film director, Screenwriter, Film critic
Birthdate: January 25, 1955
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France

 42 Samuel R. Delany

Samuel R. Delany
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City New York, New York, US

Known for his science-fiction novels such as Dhalgren, Babel-17, and the Nèverÿon series, author Samuel R. Delany often touches upon themes of sex, race, and language. A descendant of civil rights activists, he dropped out of college to write. Though gay, he was once married to lesbian poet Marilyn Hacker.

 43 Fredric Jameson

Fredric Jameson
Famous As: Essayist, Political scientist, Writer, Professor, Literary critic, Sociologist, Journalist
Birthdate: April 14, 1934
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cleveland

Fredric Jameson is an American philosopher, literary critic, and Marxist political theorist. Jameson is renowned for his analysis of capitalism and postmodernity. He is credited with authoring influential books like The Political Unconscious and Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. In 2012, Fredric Jameson was honored with the Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award by the Modern Language Association.

 44 Sergei Diaghilev

Sergei Diaghilev
Famous As: Art Critic
Birthdate: March 31, 1872
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chudovsky District, Russia
Died: August 19, 1929

Sergei Diaghilev was a Russian ballet impresario, patron, and art critic. He is credited with founding the popular ballet company Ballets Russes, which has produced some of the greatest and popular choreographers and dancers like Tamara Karsavina, Lydia Sokolova, Serge Lifar, and Alicia Markova. Sergei Diaghilev is remembered for placing the needs of his company and dancers above his own.

 45 Tom Verlaine

Tom Verlaine
Famous As: Guitarist, Singer, Singer-songwriter, Songwriter
Birthdate: December 13, 1949
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Morristown

 46 Ruth Graves Wakefield

Ruth Graves Wakefield
Famous As: Chef, Patent inventor, Teacher, Businessperson, Food critic, Dietitian
Birthdate: June 17, 1903
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Walpole
Died: January 10, 1977

 47 Charles John Klosterman

Charles John Klosterman
Birthdate: June 5, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Breckenridge, Minnesota, United States

 48 Ford Madox Ford

Ford Madox Ford
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 17, 1873
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Merton, Surrey, England
Died: June 26, 1939

Best remembered for his novel The Good Soldier, author Ford Madox Ford was the grandson of Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown. He had been part of World War I. He spent his final years in France and the US, mostly authoring criticism. The tetralogy Parade's End remains one of his best-known works.

 49 Lytton Strachey

Lytton Strachey
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 1, 1880
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 21, 1932

English biographer Lytton Strachey is best remembered for his masterpiece Eminent Victorians, which looks at the lives of Victorian figures such as Florence Nightingale and Thomas Arnold, using tools such as irony and paradox. He had also penned an award-winning biography of Queen Victoria. His short biographies discarded irrelevant details.

 50 Bruno Schulz

Bruno Schulz
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 12, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Drohobych, Ukraine
Died: November 19, 1942

One of the best Polish authors of the 20th century, Bruno Schulz is remembered for his iconic works such as The Cinnamon Shops, a collection of short stories that had a Kafkaesque style. He was shot dead by a Nazi officer while returning home with a loaf of bread.