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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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Julia Ward Howe, the Travel Book, and the Public Lectern



In the years after the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe re-invented herself. She had some conceptual space in which to do this, space formerly hard to come by, because she had become famous as the author of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and because her five children demanded less of her time. Post-bellum Howe took shape from a conjunction of several events: the death of her sixth child, three-year-old Sammy, in 1863; her extensive reading in German philosophy; disappointment at not receiving as large an inheritance as expected from her uncle (who died in 1866); dissatisfaction at the reception of her third book of poetry; and possibly most important, a third trip to Europe, during which—freed from certain kinds of anxiety—she could see more clearly her privileged place in the universe and embrace responsibilities.

My subject is a hypothesis about one stage in her growth toward the woman celebrated through the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries—iconic lace-bonneted public orator for several causes, chief among them women’s rights. This new phase of her life got a kick-start in November 1868, when she was unexpectedly asked to speak at a meeting at Horticultural Hall promoting the vote for women. This wasn’t much as speeches go, amounting in fact (according to her recollection) to only four words: “I am with you.”1 Although she had previously performed readings of her poetry and had read lectures on philosophical subjects to invited listeners in friends’...

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