In memory of Sacvan Bercovitch

Posted by Ann Donahue, Publisher

In memory of the eminent scholar Sacvan Bercovitch, his friend and colleague Professor Nan Goodman at the University of Colorado offers this memoriam:

On December 9, 2014, the great Sacvan Bercovitch passed away.  Professor Bercovitch or Saki, as he was known to friends and colleagues, was a brilliant scholar of early American literature and culture. His work on Puritan rhetoric, most significantly, the jeremiad—a long complaint that simultaneously castigates and inspires its audience—has become the symbol of a strain of American literature that continues into our own day.  In addition to his work on the Puritans, Professor Bercovitch produced many works of lasting significance on nineteenth-century American authors, including Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne.  His intellectual generosity knew no bounds, and essays demonstrating his influence on American literary scholarship by his many grateful readers, students, and colleagues can be found in Ashgate’s 2011 volume, The Turn Around Religion: Literature, Culture, and the Work of Sacvan Bercovitch. Saki’s unusual view of American literature was born in part of his having grown up as a Canadian Jew.  As an outsider—a status he always cherished–he could see more clearly than most what the “myth of America,” as he called it, was all about.  Friends and colleagues mourn the loss not only of a critical genius, but of a kind and compassionate man.

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