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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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Appendix: The Affect of Puritanism

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MICHAEL J. COLACURCIO

Republicans are said to have a commandment: say nothing negative about other Republicans. Puritanists might well adopt a similar rule: a small academic minority, with, generally speaking, a somewhat unlovely subject, they ought to be grateful for all conscientious efforts to make their field better understood and more widely attractive. For this reason, at very least, one is inclined to be sympathetic towards Abram Van Engen’s sympathetic study of the importance of the theory and practice of sympathy in the American Puritans. Even if—dare I say it?—one’s own (not entirely irrelevant) work is left un-cited.

Beginning with the easily verified premise that, on the score of affect at least, the American Puritans have had some very bad press, Van Engen attempts, with considerable energy and learning, to show that those ancestors of so much in New England and, from there, not a little in the American literary canon, were, in theory and in practice, very full of feeling. Fellow-feeling especially. Within limits, of course, as these come-outers knew how to hate the popery they left behind, and even to learn, when push of conversion came to the shove of excommunication and exile, that Saints could hardly love those who resolutely misunderstood or brazenly challenged the gospel according to Calvin, Perkins, and Ames. No one then quite anticipated Thoreau’s suggestion that some “pure hate” should under-prop the love of true virtue, but everyone well understood that, with the best will...

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