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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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The Beecher Trials

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JOHN GATTA

Preface

If the Beecher clan with its bevy of children sired by the Reverend Lyman Beecher claims recognition as the celebrity family of Victorian-era America, so also the scandal and charges of adultery leveled at Henry Ward Beecher led to what doubtless qualifies as the most sensational courtroom trial of the century. As writers for The New York Herald observed in 1874, “We can recall no one event since the murder of Lincoln that has so moved the people as this question whether Henry Ward Beecher is the basest of men.”

The church hearings and civil trial that engulfed Henry Ward Beecher divided not only the nation, still recovering from a horrendously bloody sectional conflict, but the Beecher family itself. No wonder the Beecher trial attracted such universal interest in its day, across virtually every sector of American society, as living theatre.

And it is precisely because the scandal itself, particularly as played out in the trial proceedings, strikes me as so inherently theatrical that I have been moved to represent it here in the form of a dramatic script rather than a critical essay. In doing so, I have often but not always presumed to draw language directly from some of the relevant historical documents and trial records. Blending touches of high drama with soap opera, the Beecher scandal remains engaging and revelatory for us, I believe, on several counts. One is tempted, of course, to compare...

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