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New Stanley Elkin humanities chair goes to Steven Zwicker

New Stanley Elkin humanities chair goes to Steven Zwicker

By Liam Otten

Zwicker: Scholar of international stature
Zwicker: Scholar of international stature

Steven N. Zwicker, Ph.D., professor of English, has been named the first Stanley Elkin Professor in the Humanities in Arts and Sciences. A formal installation ceremony will take place next fall.

"Professor Zwicker is an internationally recognized scholar, an outstanding teacher and a valuable University citizen," said Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor and dean of Arts and Sciences. "Steve has contributed to Washington University in every aspect of its mission and purpose."

The Elkin Professorship honors the late scholar and writer Stanley Elkin, Ph.D, the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters at the University, where he served on the faculty for 35 years. The professorship was created as a result of a 1997 gift from the Danforth Foundation to support professorships in the humanities. It is the second of four such chairs to be named in honor of distinguished individuals who have served on the University's humanities faculty.

"For the English department, there is a special fitness in naming Steve Zwicker to this chair," said Miriam L. Bailin, Ph.D., associate professor and department chair. "Not only is Steve a most deserving recipient of the honor, but the chair bears the name of his, and our, distinguished colleague and friend, Stanley Elkin. We are grateful to the Danforth Foundation for honoring the contributions of both of these men."

Zwicker received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1965. He received a master's degree in 1966 and a doctorate in 1969, both from Brown University. He came to Washington University in 1969 as an assistant professor of English and in 1983 became a full professor and department chair, a position he held until 1988.

A scholar of 17th-century English literature, Zwicker is an expert on Restoration-era literature and politics. He is the author of "Lines of Authority: Politics and English Literary Culture, 1649-1689" (1993); "Politics and Language in Dryden's Poetry: The Arts of Disguise" (1984); and "Dryden's Political Poetry: The Typology of King and Nation" (1972). He has edited four volumes and published more than two dozen essays in journals and volumes in the United States, England, Australia, Italy and Japan.

Zwicker has long been a leader in establishing interdisciplinary teaching and research programs in the humanities, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and has collaborated extensively with historians of early modern England. In 1973, Zwicker -- together with Richard W. Davis, Ph.D., and Gerald N. Izenberg, Ph.D., both professors in the Department of History in Arts and Sciences -- created the Literature and History Program in Arts and Sciences, in which he has co-taught seminars with Izenberg and with Derek M. Hirst, Ph.D., the William Eliot Smith Professor and chair of the history department.

Stanley Elkin was the author of 17 books, including 10 novels, two volumes of novellas, one book of short stories, one collection of essays and three published scripts. Elkin's novel "George Mills" won the 1982 National Book Critics Circle Award in the fiction category; he was elected a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters that same year. His last novel, "Mrs. Ted Bliss," was published posthumously and won the 1995 National Book Critics Circle Award in the fiction category. Elkin often was described as a "stylistic virtuoso" and garnered a reputation for interlacing tragedy and comedy in stories that reflected the absurdities of life and the human condition.