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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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Colacurcio, Teacher and Lecturer: A Transoceanic Perspective



If New England may be regarded as a chief mental focus of the New World, and many symptoms seem to give her this place, as to other centers the characteristics of heart and lungs to the body politic; if we may believe, as the writer does believe, that what is to be acted out in the country at large is most frequently first indicated there, as all the phenomena of the nervous system in the fantasies of the brain, we may hail as an auspicious omen the influence Mr. Emerson has there obtained, which is deep-rooted, increasing, and over the younger portion of the community far greater than that of any other person.

—Margaret Fuller, “Emerson’s Essays,” New York Daily Tribune, December 7, 1844

In the fall of 2014, as a Fulbright visiting scholar at Harvard, my goals were twofold: an intensive study of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s lectures, and an investigation of the networking and subsequent major changes affecting the Transcendentalists in the 1840s. And while contemplating the reception of Emerson in nineteenth-century intellectual life, I was regularly transported back to my own past and to my keen participation in classes given by Michael Colacurcio. The passages in Emerson describing an audience’s sincere appreciation of his lectures unmistakably resonated with my own recollections of listening to the inspiring sessions given by Colacurcio. I hope the following fond reminiscences offer a portrait of a most memorable teacher from my particular transoceanic...

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