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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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Autobiography

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MICHAEL J. COLACURCIO

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, an unsuspecting Michael J. Colacurcio (Jr.) was practiced upon by the Sisters of St. Joseph; next, St. Xavier High where the practice was more acute but less innocent; then Xavier University where the practice was made perfect. Nevertheless, with a note from the Archbishop, he studied Erronists like Locke and Hume and took an A.B. in philosophy in 1958; then, knowing no better, a gerry-rigged and fairly thin M.A. in English in 1959. Supplementing shameless indoctrination with preposterous pedantry, he managed in 1963 to wrest a Doctorate from the status-anxious Department of English at the University of Illinois, which offered, at that time, the most awesomely provisioned Ph.D. in the entire history of Misplaced Literary Emphasis. Prepared with the certainty that St. Thomas had answered in advance all the Moderns, and determined never to forget who was beaten up in Rowe’s Alley and repeating to himself the true identity of “The Water Poet,” he marched off to teach—that’s right—American Literature at Cornell University where, incidentally, they had not promoted to tenure any assistant professor in the previous twelve years.

Long time to produce a first book: they said, “Don’t get it right, get it published,” but he was too pure. Soon enough, however, he began to publish a succession of overwrought articles that continue to fill welcome gaps in a wide range of Classic American Literature, from Edward Taylor to Henry Adams. These, along with...

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