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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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Office Hours



Though I’ve spent time with Michael in other places, the space which I associate most strongly with Michael is his old office on the lower level of Rolfe Hall. He used to quip that his epitaph would be “He kept his office hours,” and though the quip was dark, the office hours themselves were not. I first met Michael the spring of my senior year of college, when I had flown out to California to visit graduate programs. During that first visit to his office, Michael took books (many by people in this collection) off his bookshelf and held them out to me, saying of each one “This is a child” or “This is a grandchild.” When he had worked his way through the long and distinguished list of intellectual offspring, he said, “I’ve trained and placed many early Americanists, and if you come here, I will take responsibility for training and placing you.”

Michael kept that promise. He taught me about early American literature, from Puritan texts to Hawthorne, Emerson, and Melville. He taught me and my classmates to consider early American literature in transatlantic terms, from the reading course in which most of us read Of Plymouth Plantation in full for the first time to seminars in which we considered the transatlantic travels of nineteenth-century writers. In his seminar on Calvinism, we started with the Institutes and worked our way forward through Perkins and Ames, through Cotton, Hooker, and Shepard,...

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