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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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“I Have Stolen His Books”: Teaching the Colacurcio Syllabus in Community College

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Lawrence Krikorian

I am lucky MJC began teaching at UCLA right when I was in the PhD program there: 1986 and 1987. Of course, I feel bad for the Cornell people who rued his loss to the West Coast. But we needed somebody to teach us useful knowledge about American Literature that we could pass on to undergraduates. There was an Americanist, but I neither saw nor met him; he was forever away working on Native American studies. Seriously, I never saw the person. There was another professor who taught grad school classes in the MIA’s stead; this second fiddle was less interested in American Literature in general and more interested in American poetry: his own. So we needed MJC pretty badly. And by golly, along he came.

I have taught twenty-seven years at a community college in California, where my colleagues continue to avoid teaching American Literature I, dumping it off on me. You know: “the boring half” or “all those religious writers.” Little do they know how spicy MJC made teaching this class! Every year I ask in the department meeting, “Doesn’t anybody want to teach English 207?” They look out the windows or check their shoelaces. Somebody clears his or her throat. We move on.

Everyone knows MJC wrote the book on Hawthorne. How would I teach “Young Goodman Brown” without MJC’s having made me read The Wonders of the Invisible World? But wait, there’s more—a lot more...

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