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A Passion for Getting It Right

Essays and Appreciations in Honor of Michael J. Colacurcio’s 50 Years of Teaching

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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Praise for A Passion for Getting It Right


“Michael J. Colacurcio stands as a monumental figure in American literary studies. The appendix to this volume, ‘The Affect of Puritanism,’ epitomizes why. Behind its sly wit and piercing angle of vision, one can discern a wealth of learning and decades of study. Very few scholars indeed can range so masterfully from nearly unknown seventeenth-century Puritan thinkers to nineteenth-century literary classics to twenty-first-century historiography. This kind of erudition is impossible to achieve in today’s accelerated and frazzled humanities. As Colacurcio notes in his little autobiography, it took him a long time to write a first book, yet Cornell tenured him long before it was done. It is wise and good that Carol M. Bensick and the other contributors have come together to honor his example.”

Mark Bauerlein, Professor of English, Emory University

“This is a bracing, bountiful display of the difference that a literary critic can make. Michael J. Colacurcio’s career as a teacher and scholar is celebrated here in ways that return the reader not only to Colacurcio’s extraordinary body of work, but to the discipline’s central subject: the absorbing, mysterious, infinitely rich life of the mind. It may be true that, as one of the contributors observes, you had to be there—that some aspect of Colacurcio’s live performances is untranslatable. But one can sense in these essays the spirit of those performances, the magical blending of seemingly antithetical qualities—restlessness and thoroughness, joyful play and forceful earnestness—with which Colacurcio...

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