Emory Elliott (1942-2009)

Emory Elliott (October 30, 1942 – March 31, 2009)


Messages from the SEA listserv upon hearing the sad news from Professor Joanna Brooks that Professor Emory Elliott had passed away on Tuesday, March 31, 2009

From Joanna Brooks

April 2, 2009

Dear colleagues:
With great sadness, I wanted to share the news that our colleague Emory Elliott passed away suddenly last night of a heart attack.  A first-rate scholar and a very warm and generous human being.

Joanna Brooks
Department of English
San Diego State University


From Carla Mulford

Sad news, indeed.

Emory was one of those who helped me into the profession by inviting me to contribute to his DLB volumes when I was just a graduate student. Those two entries in his DLB volumes were among my first publications, thanks to a trusting and gentle senior scholar who realized that graduate students could do good work, too.  I have tried to follow that example in my own professional life.

In more recent years, Emory worked to further the interests of the International American Studies Association (IASA), among many other things. I hope others will post their thoughts on this important scholar.

Thanks for letting us know, Joanna.


Carla Mulford
Department of English
Pennsylvania State University


From Nicholas D. Rombes

While I never had the privilege of meeting Emory, I was introduced to his work by my mentor and advisor at Penn State, Carla Mulford. His book Revolutionary Writers was, looking back on it now, the book that excited me about the field of early American literature and culture. His writing was clear and sharp, and it tackled big ideas that went far beyond the sort of narrow, close-reading of texts that I learned as an undergraduate. That book never remains far from me on my bookshelf, as a reminder of the power of writing.

His family and friends are in my thoughts and prayers.

Nick Rombes
University of Detroit Mercy

From Shirley Samuels

Hi there Carla. For me, as for others, Emory was a warm and helpful presence from my first weeks as a new assistant professor at Princeton.

My favorite story, one that exposes something about life at Princeton then as well as for what it says about Emory’s generosity, happened when he took me to lunch my first semester. Clearly cautioning me as well as expressing his support, he said, “I always watch myself when becoming close to the assistant professors here. It’s so sad when they have to go.”

In spite of those words — or perhaps because I left early! — Emory was always ready for a lunch, a discussion about work, and ideas about the future.

He left for Riverside for a fairly principled cause in addition to the opportunities it gave him to establish global networks in American Studies. And I appreciated his activities in both causes.

Warm thoughts for Georgia and the rest of the family.

Shirley Samuels
Cornell University

From Joanna Brooks

Colleagues–at Carla Mulford’s encouragement, I wanted to add a few additional details about Emory. Emory grew up in a working-class neighborhood of Baltimore. He also served in the military and recounted once serving as a guide for the legendary author Richard Wright when he visited a military base. From his roots, Emory carried forward a sense of interracial solidarity that deeply informed his teaching and institutional and professional service. He was for me a role model, and he was especially admired by those who worked with him in the leadership of the American Studies Association (he was ASA president in 2006). Although I did not work extensively with him, I like Carla Mulford and Shirley Samuels found Emory to be incredibly generous to me as a younger scholar. He was especially encouraging when I turned to him once for advice during a demanding transitional moment in my own career. Gentle and earnest, energetic and committed, he will be sorely missed. It is difficult to imagine American Studies without him. –Joanna Brooks


From Mark Kamrath

I will just add that Emory regularly advised the CBBrown archive and edition (more recently with NEH grant efforts), and that he did so generously. We once discussed the impact of his Columbia Literary History on the early American canon and scholars of different generations, and I found his modesty surprising and instructive.

Like Leo and others, he was a role model and will, indeed, be missed.

Mark Kamrath
University of Central Florida


From Rafia Zafar

How melancholy to be writing this elegy and encomium, mere days after I told a young graduate-student-to-be about a wonderful, smart, encouraging person, the scholar Emory Elliott. I met Emory when I visited Princeton as a job candidate twenty years ago, impressed to be meeting a scholar whose work I read and profited by, and then impressed again when I found him so supportive, generous, welcoming. Those feelings were only confirmed, and reconfirmed, in the decades since. My most heartfelt condolences and thoughts go to those close to him, family and friends alike.

Rafia Zafar
Washington University in St. Louis


From the University of California, Riverside:

UCR English Department, College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences: In Memoriam: Emory Elliott

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