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A Passion for Getting It Right

Essays and Appreciations in Honor of Michael J. Colacurcio’s 50 Years of Teaching

Edited By Carol M. Bensick

For 50 years Michael J. Colacurcio has been a leader in the criticism of early and antebellum American literature. In The Province of Piety, New Essays on The Scarlet Letter, Doctrine and Difference, and Godly Letters, as well as editions and often-reprinted reviews and essays, Dr. Colacurcio has continued to defend a rare vision of the political and intellectual depth of America’s serious fiction and the aesthetic power and charm of its religious poetry and prose. In light of many honors such as the Book of the Year Award from the Conference of Christianity and Literature and election in 2007 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, UCLA raised him to the rank of Distinguished Professor. Yet for all his dedication to research, his students know him as an unforgettable teacher, who has continued to win several teaching awards at both Cornell and UCLA. The present volume aspires to celebrate Dr. Colacurcio’s 50 years of transformative teaching through an exciting bounty of original and classic essays by some of his most talented students and eminent colleagues from his very first years at Cornell up to and including his current students at UCLA.
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Remembering the Puritans: Hawthorne and the Scene of History89


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Remembering the Puritans: Hawthorne and the Scene of History


Like the man said, Poetry is more philosophical than History. Not that we still care that much about philosophy: most people would agree with my post-Jesuit brother who defines it as that one thing with or without which everything else remains the same. Or poetry either, for that matter, as the enrollments in our English classes will testify: long lines for the American novel; for any period of American verse, not so much. But still we appear to take the point: literature—though Aristotle hardly had that concept—can hardly afford to care about the over-determining details of one singular event; give us, if not the generalization, then at least the present application. Especially in a classroom situation: Hawthorne’s once-famous “ambivalence” about his Puritans and his Revelers is more likely to generate enthusiasm than a cautious account of how his self-proclaimed “allegory” appeared in fact to assemble itself out of a series of footnotes to William Bradford.

But somewhat more is at issue than the limitations of our ever-more-distracted undergraduates. We too expect literature to offer more than a contrived version of something that just happened to happen. Once. In a more or less endless list of events that mattered no doubt, but which probably could have been otherwise, and which in any event seem controlled by forces no longer in visible operation. Humanity may or may...

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