William Dean Howells (1837 – 1920)
For the sake of the GRE, you need only know that Howells was a late 19th, and early 20th century critic.
Howells was an American realist author. He wrote for various magazines, including Atlantic Monthly and Harper's Magazine. He wrote his first novel, The Wedding Journey, in 1872, but his career took off with his first realist novel, A Modern Instance. His most famous novel is The Rise of Silas Lapham.
Howells also wrote plays, criticism, and essays about contemporary literary figures such as Henrik Ibsen and Leo Tolstoy, which helped establish their reputation in the United States. Nevertheless, Howells's own reputation in American literature has waned somewhat, with his novels being considered "prudish." According to him, the vast majority of people who would read his works were women and he wrote in a way that would not offend them. He believed that literature was potentially injurious and devoid of thought.
Today, Howells is most famous for his literary criticism and his editorial support of authors like Mark Twain, Thorstein Veblen and Henry James.