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Realism and Its Vicissitudes

Essays in Honor of Sandy Petrey

Edited By Robert Harvey and Patrice Nganang

This collection honors the career of Donald «Sandy» Petrey, Professor of Comparative Literature at the State University of New York at Stony Brook for over forty years. The diversity of essays – written by colleagues, friends, and former students, and ranging in subject from the traditional Festschrift theme of the honoree’s compelling contributions to the study of realism and the novel’s role in history, to chapters on Susan Sontag’s experimental films, the thought of the late Marxist philosopher André Gorz, silence in the graphic novel, and linguistic disparities between American and Standard Italian – attests to the plasticity of Sandy Petrey’s mind and the ample indications of his work. Best-known (and well-loved) for his often gruff, no-nonsense style in teaching and prose, Petrey is celebrated by those whose careers and ideas he has helped to nurture, inform, and embolden. This collection is a fine text for courses in nineteenth-century as well as contemporary French studies and literature.
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Preface: For Sandy…


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The intellectual legacy of Donald Petrey—“Sandy” to the scores of graduate students he trained and regaled with his captivatingly enthusiastic knowledge of literature and theory and to his many colleagues who miss him sorely, now that he has retired from active duty at the university—is the object of this Festschrift.

Fueled by his encyclopedic knowledge, his insatiable appetite for novels, propelled by bold interpretations couched in the most straightforward no-nonsense discourse, Sandy Petrey created and occupied such an important place in literary studies for himself that students were magnetically drawn to him. At the same time, his peers both at Stony Brook and across the continent, turned to his unique perspective on realism, on speech act theory, on the impact of the French Revolution on Europe and the world at large to advance their own research.

Sandy retired from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2012 after forty-three years. Forty-three years during which he never once had a day of absence except in those months when he fought and beat cancer—twice. A brilliant student of Henri Peyre (about whom Sandy says he’d “read everything and understood it”), he came to Stony Brook—“the Berkeley of the east coast”—fresh off a Ph.D. defended at Yale University in 1966 on “Zola’s Rougon-Macquart Cycle.”

True to the quip about Stony Brook being a fledgling sister to the seat...

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