Berkovitch to open new lecture series celebrating the literary impact of SU alumus Stephen Crane
Berkovitch to open new lecture series celebrating the literary impact of SU alumus Stephen CraneNovember 07, 2001Jonathan Hayjhay@syr.edu
One of Syracuse University’s most noteworthy alumni will be celebrated Nov. 20, as the English department in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences hosts the first installment in the Stephen Crane Memorial Lecture Series.
The lecture will begin at 4 p.m. in the Kilian Room, Room 500 of the Hall of Languages. Sacvan Bercovitch, Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University, will speak on “What’s Funny about Huckleberry Finn?”
Crane, who attended SU in 1891, is best known for his Civil War novel, “The Red Badge of Courage.” The lecture series is co-sponsored by the English Department and the Dikaia Foundation of the Syracuse Chapter of Delta Upsilon fraternity. Crane was a member of the Delta Upsilon while at SU, where he is said to have drafted his novel, “Maggie, A Girl of the Streets.”
“We already have the Raymond Carver Reading Series, which brings to campus poets and fiction writers from across the country,” says Robert Gates, chair of the English department. “Now the Stephen Crane Lecture Series will allow the English Department to bring to Syracuse internationally known teachers and researchers in American literature who can enrich our academic programs and connect our students and faculty to the work of scholars at other schools. We are particularly happy to be able to begin this series with Sacvan Bercovitch, probably the best known scholar in American literature and editor of the ‘Cambridge History of American Literature.””
Bercovitch has been a central figure in American literary studies since the publication of his early book, “The Puritan Origins of the American Self” in 1975. That study pioneered historically grounded rhetorical analysis well before “new historicism” became a household word in the United States. His books, articles and edited collections that followed, “The American Jeremiad” in 1978, “Ideology and Classic American Literature” and “Reconstructing American Literary History” in 1986, “The Office of ‘The Scarlet Letter'” in 1991 (a winner of the prestigious James Russell Lowell Prize for the best scholarly book), “The Rites of Assent: Transformations in the Symbolic Construction of America” in 1992, “Americana Puritana” in 1994, “Games of Chess: A Model of Literary and Cultural Studies” in 1996, and the multi-volume “Cambridge History of American Literature” (1990-present) have each played pivotal roles in the ongoing redefinition of the boundaries, methodologies, and functions of American literary scholarship and criticism.
Bercovitch has lectured widely in the United States and in Europe, China, Japan, and Israel. He served as the president of American Studies Association; has been named a fellow by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and received the Cabot Award for Achievement in the Humanities.
Gates says it is only fitting to bring in a literary scholar of Bercovitch’s stature to celebrate the accomplishments of Crane. Despite a short career, Crane had a great impact on the literary world after leaving SU. Crane, who lived to be only 29, was the youngest of 14 children of a Methodist minister who died when Crane was nine. He lived the life of a penniless artist who became well known as a poet, journalist, social critic and realist. He was noted as being an “original” in his field of work, a pioneer in prose realism and to some degree in poetic free verse.
Crane began writing for newspapers in 1891 when he settled in New York City, where he developed his powers as an observer of psychological and social reality. After he wrote “The Red Badge of Courage,” which earned him international acclaim at age 24, he was hired as a reporter in the American West and Mexico.
Crane covered the Greco-Turkish War and later settled in England, where he made friends with famous writers of the time, including H.G. Wells and Henry James. Wells called Crane “beyond dispute, the best writer of our generation.” He later covered the Spanish-American War for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World.