MEMORIAL NOTICES 2003-04

MEMORIAL NOTICES 2003-04

Engelberg, Edward

HASKELL BLOCK

On November 7, 2003, the comparative literature community lost another of its American pioneers: Haskell M. Block. President of the ACLA for six years, Advisory Board member for four, member of the Advisory Board of the ICLA for four years, editor of the Papers of the first ACLA meeting, Haskell Block made his mark at the top of the Association’s masthead. But it is as the good soldier that we most remember him, gamely journeying to ACLA meetings until his health failed. lie delivered papers, presided over sessions, and when in the audience asked trenchant questions in his polite but booming voice. He was, in the truest sense of the word, a colleague. His many books and essays are testimony to his life-long devotion as a comparatist-from Mallarmé to world drama, from the symbolist movement to naturalism, from Joyce to Célan. During the last decade of his life he mined Harvard’s Widener and the libraries of Europe researching the magnum opus he was sadly never to complete: a study of the German influence on the French Enlightenment.

On a personal note, he was a friend for decades from whom I learned much. I always found him jovial, generous, and ready with an anecdote about the many friends he treasured and kept close, like his books. We are the poorer without him, but were fortunate enough tobe richer when he was amongst us.

Edward Engelberg, Professor Emeritus

Department of Comparative Literature

Brandeis University

THOMAS M. GREENE

Thomas M. Greene dedicated his first book, The Descent from Heaven published in 1963, to René Wellek, who is described in Tom’s preface as “the most humane of masters and benefactors.” That phrase-like Tom’s later gesture of dedicating his book The Vulnerable Text to his student A. Bartlett Giamatti-dramatizes Tom’s abiding interest in thinking about generational politics, and about the transmission of culture broadly construed, in a way that differs from, although it does not ignore, the dark stories about blocked transmission or mistranslation told by some of Greene’s contemporaries, by some of his pedagogical sons and daughters, and by some of his literary precursors as well, among them Milton’s Satan and Shakespeare’s King Henry IV. Shakespeare’s king chastizes his son Hal for failing in a filial duty defined as the son providing a perfect image of the father’s own “noble youth.” In the alternative story about imitation and transmission that Tom repeatedly offers us, oedipal economies, emotions and behaviors are abundantly present, but they do not wholly block the arteries of that heterogeneous, sometimes monstrously gargantuan, body of texts and traditions that Tom took as his object of study. That object came in Tom’s later years to include not only classical and Renaissance literary texts but also his own children’s and grandchildren’s letters, play-texts by New Haven high school students that he helped to direct, and writings by students and colleagues with whom he sometimes passionately disagreed. With all of his interlocutors, Tom engaged in ongoing dialogues about the possibilities, in theory and in practice, of a mode of imitation that would allow for difference as well as for the filial resemblance that Shakespeare’s King Henry believes to be his due. “Renaissance imitation at its richest,” Tom wrote in the chapter on “Historical Solitude” in The Light in Troy, “became a technique for creating etiological constructs, unblocking-within the fiction of the work-the blockages in transmission which created humanist pathos.” Because Tom valued and sought to study both the blockages in cultural transmission and the “unblocking fictions,” he would have relished attending this year’s ACLA conference. I wish he could have been there-and I wish I too could have been there-to learn from the polyphonic discussion participants had about the “State of the Discipline” at the present time. Our discipline has lost a rich and wise voice with the death oi’Thomas M. Greene.

Professor Margaret Ferguson

Department of English

University of California at Davis

EARL MINER

When Earl Miner died on April 17, 2004, comparative literature lost one of its most devoted, innovative, and authoritative voices. Specializing in British seventeenth-century and Japanese literature, as well as comparative poetics, he served twice on the Advisory Board of the ACLA, and later as member of the Bureau and President of the ICLA. Earl’s scholarship-close to fifty volumes-led to numerous honors and left his colleagues a remarkable legacy of translations, editions, and independently authored books. Among comparatists, he is best known for his Comparative Poetics (1990), where he concludes, “the great gain from intercultural comparative study is that it avoids taking the local for the universal, the momentary for the constant and, above all, the familiar for the inevitable.” Earl’s intellectual reach was matched by the friendships he and his wife Jinny forged with colleagues and students around the world. We remember with gratitude his wit, his brilliance, his sense of fair play, and his gift for seeing literary and cultural contrasts as a path to deeper connections.

Professors Sandra Bermann and Claudia Brodsky

Department of Comparative Literature

Princeton University

EDWARD W. SAID

Edward W. Said, who died September 24, 2003, most widely known as an eloquent and thought-provoking public intellectual, was also one of the leading comparatists in the academic world where he made his home. Born in Jerusalem in 1935, he was raised in Egypt and came to the United States for college and graduate school. He began teaching at Columbia in 1963, where he remained for the rest of his life, apart from several visiting professorships elsewhere. Following important early work on Conrad-a lifelong interest-he achieved wide scholarly acclaim for his socially grounded theoretical work Beginnings (1975), while also becoming actively involved in the Palestinian struggle for recognition and independence. Said’s scholarly and political concerns joined together in works devoted to representations of Palestinians and of Arabs generally, in such works as Covenng Islam (1980) and the beautiful After the Last Sky (1986). Part memoir, part meditation on a series of photographs, this book can be thought of as an example of interarts comparative work, as can Musical Elaborations (1991).

The most important of Said’s works of cultural criticism was of course Orientalism (1979), which has had an epochal impact on contemporary literary scholarship, comparable in the postwar era to only a few works such as Auerbach’s Mimesis (a favorite work of Said’s, and the subject of one of his last essays), Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, or de Man’s Blindness and Insight. Unlike those works, Orientalism had a wide nonacademic impact as well, and it and subsequent books such as The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983), Culture and Imperialism (1993), and his memoir Out of Place (1999) furthered his work as a leading public intellectual and scholar.

Said’s extraordinary output as a writer didn’t preclude his mentoring generations of students and taking on institutional roles as well: for many years he directed Columbia’s Program in Comparative Literature, and he served a term as President of the Modern Language Association among many other roles. His exceptional vitality was such that no one who knew him could really accept that his decade-long struggle with cancer could have any result other than an everincreasing series of talks, essays, books, and debates in the hall about Glenn Could. Our field is richer for his life, and poorer for his death.

Professor David Damrosch

Department of English and Comparative Literature

Columbia University

Edward Engelberg, Professor Emeritus

Department of Comparative Literature

Brandeis University

Professor Margaret Ferguson

Department of English

University of California at Davis

Professors Sandra Bermann and Claudia Brodsky

Department of Comparative Literature

Princeton University

Professor David Damrosch

Department of English and Comparative Literature

Columbia University

Copyright Comparative Literature Summer 2004

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved