Sacvan Bercovitch (1933-2014)

Testimonials and Messages

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By Annette Kolodny

There are surely no early Americanists today whose scholarship has not in some way been influenced, enhanced, and enlightened by the published works of Sacvan Bercovitch. I am surely one of those. But I also had the extraordinary experience of working closely with Saki as a member of the National Council during the years that he served as president of the American Studies Association, 1985-88. As many of us recall, the ‘80s were also a period when tenure was under attack and right-wing idealogues were monitoring and attempting to stifle the work of those of us they considered the “tenured radicals.” Affirmative action was under attack and terms like diversity and multi-ethnic were suspect in some circles. But under Saki’s careful and compassionate guiding hand, the ASA significantly expanded its outreach to scholars of color and to less well-worked areas of interdisciplinary American studies. With enormous tact and diplomacy, he guided the association toward inclusivity at the same time as he stabilized our then-precarious financial situation. In short, in addition to being one of the great scholars of his generation, Saki was also a leader who saw the challenges to our profession and took them on with courage and dedication. In private moments together, over many years, I always found Saki a kind and gentle soul with a heart as big as the Ritz.

Respectfully submitted,
Annette Kolodny
College of Humanities Professor Emerita of American Literature and Culture
University of Arizona

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Here is a brief obituary notice:
http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Sacvan-Bercovitch&lc=7323&pid=173415578&mid=6229087

And here is a lovely tribute written by Christopher Looby, from the Early American Literature web site:
http://people.cas.sc.edu/dshields/eal/featuresreviews.htm

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