Frank Shuffelton (1940-2010)

By Raymond A. Craig

Hello Colleagues,

I am writing to share the sad news that Professor Frank Shuffelton passed away on March 4. While the University of Rochester release below outlines Frank’s considerable accomplishments in the academy, in print and in the classroom, I and no doubt many others will miss the intense and engaging late night conversations in conference hotels and restaurants. He was extraordinarily generous with his time and expertise, reaching out to and supporting new scholars, and I will particularly miss his passion.


By Luca Codignola

Frank Shuffelton

Early in our life and career Frank Shuffelton and I had shared accommodation at a wonderful Bicentennial conference organized in a snow-blanketed Williamsburg by Carl Dolmetsch for the Early American Literature Division of The Modern Languages Association of America, “American Literature of the Revolutionary War Era” (December 8-10, 1976). We kept in touch ever since, and when we met again several years later at another conference, this time the Fifth Annual Conference of The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, in Austin (June 11-13, 1999), it was as if time had not passed and we greatly enjoyed that friendly reunion, which was shared by Frank’s wife. His personal warmth, as well as his innovative A Mixed Race. Ethnicity in Early America (1993) — which I still use regularly — shall not be forgotten. My deepest condolences to Frank’s wife and family — Luca Codignola, Università di Genova, Italy

By Mark Kamrath

I got to know Frank through SEA conferences and panels in the late 1990s and then, later, through his generous collaborative work on Brown and eighteenth-century periodicals. In both cases, he contributed scholarship that was provocative and enriching, and that helped move the field forward. I was humbled by his knowledge of a wide range of topics and also by his willingness to help younger scholars make their mark on the field. But beyond modeling what it means to be a professor of early American literature, Frank had a gusto for life–a hearty laugh and an appreciation of the moment. I count myself as fortunate for having had the opportunity, especially early in my career, to learn from him, and to later share good food and drink at the local pub. Frank, a full salute here–you will be missed.

By James Kirschke

I am writing to say a good word about our late colleague, Frank Shuffelton. I/we will miss him a lot.

I served with Frank on the Executive Board of the Society for 18th Century American Studies (SECAS) Culture from its inception until its transformation into the Society of Early Americanists (SEA). His scholarship on Jefferson and the Adams’s, for instance, proved tremendously helpful and useful to me and many other colleagues throughout the last several decades. Moreover, he was always a thoughtful, wise and reliable colleague and adviser, a scholar one could always seek out to discuss professional ideas and concepts.

Frank was also a very good man personally. A decade or so ago, I had some serious family issues; and at the ASECS Conferences at Nashville, Notre Dame and elsewhere, I always knew I could talk in confidence to Frank about these concerns, and knew that he cared earnestly about the turmoil in the life of a fellow Americanist.

I will always miss him. May His Soul rest in Peace,

James Kirschke


By Annette Kolodny

Remembering Frank Shuffelton

Frank and I were presences in one another’s lives long before we ever met in person. In the summer of 1962, just after graduating from Brooklyn College, I enrolled in a post-graduate Publishing Procedures course at Harvard. Also enrolled in the course was one of Frank’s former Harvard College roommates. Frank was away that summer, but during the course of the summer, I dated one of his roommates and got to know all the others. Part of the joy of the summer was hearing “Shuffelton stories.” I gather he had been considered a bit of a prankster and the most droll of his college group. Because Frank and I had both been English majors, everyone said we really had to meet—though we never did at that time. Instead, I simply learned about a guy who was deeply loved and much admired by his college friends.

Many, many years later, Frank and I finally met in person and discovered to our amazement, that we had both ended up as early Americanists. We shared all the stories we had heard about one another and quickly became fast friends. Over the years, Frank and I got together as often as possible at various conferences, and I quickly understood why he had been so loved by his college roommates. He was funny, unassuming, warm, and always generous of heart. He always offered to help out anyone of my graduate students and offer advice on some project I was undertaking.

Most memorable about Frank, however, was the care and regard he took for his fellow faculty members while serving as the Chair of the Department of English at the University of Rochester. Some years ago, when I told Frank that I had become a dean and was doing consulting work on the situation of humanities faculty members in different disciplines, Frank opened my eyes to the following: he pointed out the enormous discrepancy between the way most academic institutions treat faculty members in the sciences when they receive even the most modest of recognition—much fanfare and publicity—while almost wholly ignoring the accomplishments of English Department faculty members when they received something like the Hubbell Medal from the American Literature Section of the MLA or a Guggenheim Fellowship. Frank pointed out the ways this disparate treatment reifies the different status accorded the science and humanities disciplines on today’s campuses, and he shared with me his many strategies to try to get his own faculty members into the spotlight when they received honors and awards. Frank was tireless in this regard.

As a result of these conversations with Frank I quoted him in several of my articles and consulting venues and tried to get other university administrators to follow his fine example.

Finally, Frank and I shared the most awful of intimacies: we both battled cancer—and when I saw him last, he was his usual plucky and optimistic self. He had lost his hair and lost considerable weight, but never lost his sense of humor or his good heart. We have all lost someone very special.

Remembered with love,
Annette Kolodny
College of Humanities Professor Emerita of American Literature and Culture
University of Arizona

By Thomas W. Krise

I’ve had a special connection to Frank for many years not only because of our work together in SEA and SECAS (the old Society for Eighteenth-Century American Studies—Frank was President), but also because we both spent time as military officers: Frank was in the Coast Guard and I was in the Air Force. It was great for me to have someone who knew both the academic and military cultures and could understand some of the challenges of crossing from one to the other. I know I’m not alone when I say that I’ll miss his jolly demeanor, his laugh, and his sharp and helpful queries and comments at panels and conferences. Frank Shuffelton was a great credit to our field and to the profession of teaching.

By Lisa M. Logan

Frank Shuffelton was my teacher. As graduate coordinator at University of Rochester in 1986, he later told me, he saw an application from a “nice girl” at a tiny Catholic women’s college in Pennsylvania and thought I was worth a chance. When he entered the classroom, we all lit up at his “Good Morning, Scholars!” Affable, gregarious, and joyful at the opportunity to talk about ideas—and not just his own—Frank presided in class, in office hours, at department parties, in the corridors of Morey Hall, and, though I only learned about it later, at conferences. For Frank, teaching was never about creating others in his own image or forcing us to conform. When I wanted to study feminism and women writers, he was already doing it. He thought that Jefferson and Melville should be in hypertext. He once told me that he attended conference panels on topics about which he knew little so that he could learn something. Of course, if you knew Frank, you know that his interests, knowledge, and intellect were vast, and he was just being modest as usual. The same goes for his impact on his students and colleagues. I once tried to tell him how much his support meant to me over the years, and he waved it away, saying that he always thought he let me fall through the cracks. I presented my first national conference paper because Frank pushed me to call his colleague who had an open space on a panel. He even drove me several hours away to the conference, where I delivered my paper nervously because Frank’s friends and colleagues filled the room, and I was terrified that I would let this great, kind, brilliant man down, that I would somehow fail to live up to his generous reading of me. Nearly twenty years later, I see that Frank thought all of us are worth a chance. Frank continues to teach me. I noticed a couple of semesters ago that I addressed my students as “scholars,” and my colleague in history has followed suit. I’m still working on the rest.

By Dennis Moore

[EARAM-L] In Memoriam, Frank Shuffelton

Thanks for relaying the news about losing Frank Shuffelton, Ray.  This time of the year carries memories for so many of us:  being in ASECS sessions with Frank and at meals and happy hours and, yes, in those intense late-night conversations with this friend and colleague and role model.  That twinkle in his eyes always did make him just a bit larger than life.  In 1999, when the SEA merged with the Americanist group that had sprung up within ASECS — SECAS, the Society for Eighteenth-Century American Studies, which Dan Williams had cooked up two decades ago! — Frank was serving as SECAS’ president.  I had been honored, as a mere grad student, to draft the constitution for SECAS, and serving on the group’s board with Frank and with recent SEA president Tom Krise was an honor, too, and an education.  We’ll miss Frank.
— Dennis Moore

By Jeffrey H. Richards

It is hard to imagine the world of American literature without Frank Shuffelton.  I first met Frank nearly twenty years ago at one conference or another, and he never failed to greet me thereafter.  When we first met, he was somebody and I was nobody, but he never curbed his enthusiasm to see someone on that basis.  Oh, sometimes he would get Tim Sweet and me mixed up—two skinny guys with glasses and beards—but that never changed the affection I had for Frank.  Not only was he a good scholar, whose books and articles mattered, but he understood the place of geniality and good will in a profession that at times has not always displayed it.  Frank’s robust voice, his little laugh, and his sociability were all things I looked forward to encountering at MLA or SEA or ALA or wherever early Americanists might meet.  As someone who knew what being a department chair entailed, I thought Frank’s taking on chair duties at Rochester late in his career to be most admirable, a respected senior scholar stepping up to deal with the nitty-gritty of department work.
When Frank had to face cancer, it seemed wrong, somehow, but he handled it with aplomb.  I was so happy to see him in Bermuda at the 2009 SEA, undeterred by what he faced.  We chatted in one of the island’s picturesque little towns—our last conversation.  I still see him sitting on the bench with his wife Jane, waiting for a bus, keeping up his good cheer.  As sad as news of his death leaves me, I will remember his enthusiasm for life, his love for his work, his care for people in our business, and for all the encouragement he provided to me over many years.  Thanks, Frank, for everything.

— Jeff Richards



By Wesley T. Mott

President, The Ralph Waldo Emerson Society

From a tribute forthcoming in the Spring issue of Emerson Society Papers.

In Memoriam
Frank Shuffelton

Frank Shuffelton, a Harvard graduate with a Stanford Ph.D., taught for his entire career at the University of Rochester (1969-2008). His Transcendentalist credentials were impressive. An original member of the Emerson Society, one of twenty-seven present at the founding meeting in 1989, he wrote important articles on Henry Thoreau and Margaret Fuller, and contributed essays to both the Biographical Dictionary and the Encyclopedia of Transcendentalism (1996). His fine chapter “Emerson’s Politics of Biography and History” appeared in Emersonian Circles: Essays in Honor of Joel Myerson (1997), which Bob Burkholder and I edited—in fact, it was Frank’s visit to the director of the press that secured our contract with the University of Rochester Press. And soon to appear in the magisterial Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism, edited by Joel Myerson, Sandy Petrulionis, and Laura Dassow Walls, is his chapter on Puritanism.
Indeed, Frank used to quip that he “commuted between early American literature and the Transcendentalists”—for though he was regularly drawn into Emerson’s orbit, he was most at home in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His Thomas Hooker: 1586-1647 (Princeton, 1977) was the first biography of the great New England Puritan divine since 1891. Frank also wrote The American Enlightenment (Rochester, 1993) and edited A Mixed Race: Ethnicity in Early America (Oxford 1993) and The Letters of John and Abigail Adams (Penguin 2003). He will perhaps best be remembered as one of the great Jeffersonians of his time. He published Thomas Jefferson: A Comprehensive, Annotated Bibliography (Garland, 1983), followed by Thomas Jefferson, 1981-1990: An Annotated Bibliography (Garland, 1992), and edited Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (Penguin, 1999).  Most recently he edited the widely used Cambridge Companion to Thomas Jefferson (Cambridge, 2008).
Widely honored by his profession—a Mellon Faculty Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellow, MLA Distinguished Scholar of Early American Literature in 2006—Frank is remembered by Jefferson scholar R. B. Bernstein as both “a valued and incredibly industrious colleague . . . and a true gentleman and scholar.” Emersonians will long remember Frank as congenial researcher at the Houghton Library and as a jovial presence at conferences who lit up a room with humor and honest charm, who delighted us at dinner with funny stories and news of his wife, Jane, their children, Amy and George, and their beloved summer home in New Hampshire. I will always picture Frank showing up at American Literature Association conferences sporting his Emerson Society “transparent eye-ball” T-shirt under a two-piece suit. ALA will feel a lot smaller without Frank, but we are all better for having known him.

— Wesley T. Mott

American Literature to 1830 Division Award to Frank Shuffelton: “MLA Distinguished Scholar of Early American Literature, 2006.” Early American Literature 42.2 (2007): 379-380.


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