Schorer earned an MA at Harvard and his Ph.D. in English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1936. During his academic career, he held positions at Dartmouth, Harvard, and the University of California, Berkeley, where he chaired the Department of English from 1960 to 1965. A leading critic of his time, he was best known for his work, Sinclair Lewis: An American Life. Schorer was also the author of many short stories, which appeared in magazines such as The New Yorker, Harpers, The Atlantic Monthly, and Esquire.
Among his honors were three Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright professorship at the University of Pisa and a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. He also was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the most prestigious honor society for creative arts in the country. He is portrayed in the film Howl (2010) by Treat Williams.