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In Memoriam: Emory Elliott (1942-2009)

Emory Elliott We are very sad to report that our dear friend and member of the JTAS advisory board, the distinguished scholar Emory Elliott, has suddenly passed away, reminding us of April's cruelty, and leaving us bereft of a tireless advocate for the Humanities and for American Studies. He will be much missed by members of the Academy, but especially by all of us involved in the Journal of Transnational American Studies. We were his long-time colleagues, some of us his former students, all of us his friends. We remember Emory as a passionate transformer, committed to nurturing diverse, international voices in American Studies. As a President of the American Studies Association, Chair of Princeton's English Department, and most recently as Director of the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside, where he was awarded the prestigious title 'University Professor' by the Board of Regents in 2001, Emory demonstrated the calibre of leadership and dedication to service that defined his character both professionally and personally. He nurtured scholars of American literature and culture around the globe. He edited major book series and published books that indelibly shaped American literary studies as we know the field today. His energy and enthusiasm were boundless. We send our deepest condolences to his family.

The following obituary notices provide details on his many important contributions to our field.,0,220932.story

Please join our tribute to Emory Elliott by sharing your thoughts and memorie s with the JTAS readership around the world. Send your comments to Nina M organ at

With sadness,

Shelley Fisher Fishkin (on behalf of the JTAS editors)

Alfred Hornung

James Kyung-Jin Lee

Shirley Geok-lin Lim

Nina Morgan

Greg Robinson

Takayuki Tatsumi

Thoughts In Remembrance of Emory Elliott

I would like to join my colleagues around the world in expressing my sadne ss at the news of Emory's sudden death. I first met Emory at the Salzburg Semina r more than 20 years ago, and have subsequently met him often at American Studie s conferences in the US and Europe. His openness to perspectives outside of the United States was his signature, along with his warm mentoring. Emory was always modest about his own accomplishments, and generous in his appreciation for the work of others. My most recent memory was a breakfast meeting at a IASA conferen ce, where he was characteristically cheerful so early in the morning, and where he spoke, also characteristically, about his family, his students, his classes, and his writing, all interwoven and all sources of joy. He was not reticent abou t admitting that he felt blessed, that he had a good life. I will remember this good cheer most of all, this sense of being in the presence of someone who appre ciated what he had achieved, and who was committed to nurturing others.

Professor Hana Wirth-Nesher
Department of English and American Studies
Samuel L. and Perry Haber Chair on the Study of the Jewish Experience in the United States
Director, Goldreich Institute for Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture
Tel Aviv University
Ramat Aviv, Israel
Office: 972 3 6408167
April 3, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

Shocks are called shocks to tell us that we have been totally unprepared for what has happened. For hundreds and thousands of people Emory Elliott has been, and will remain to be, an embodiment of intellectual and moral energy, a tireless teacher, a profound and fruitful scholar. It is hard to have to accept that we shall not meet him in person any more. When still closed within the iron-curtain world, we used to turn to his literary scholarship�if and when accessible�for information, for inspiration and encouragement. After 1989 it was Emory Elliott who understood that we, the colleagues in the field in the former "Eastern Bloc" may need help but may also be interesting partners for debating the nature and future of American Studies�in our own countries and even in more general terms and contexts. He gave us generously of his time and erudition during his trips to Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia. I had the privilege to discuss with him the potential of cooperation between American and European Americanists when we both were serving as presidents to the U.S. and European associations, respectively. And I believe that there remains much more to be done in this respect�to also honor Emory's efforts and dreams.

We were very excited when he visited Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic, in 2002, and presented his key-note at our annual colloquy then dealing with the theme "The Fiction of Politics and Politics of Fiction." It would be difficult to find a better subject for Emory Elliott and to find a more suitable scholar to address such topic. His contribution we proudly published in our colloquy series�and his unforgettable personal presence will remain with us a grateful and living memory.

Josef Jarab
Professor of English and American Studies
Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic
April 3, 2009

I would like to express my deep appreciation of Emory's work to advance the cause of int ernational American studies over the course of many years. My time as president of IASA coinc ided with his spell as president of ASA, and he was always willing to take risks to develop ou r mutual interests. I remember in particular the 2005 IASA Congress in Ottawa, when one of ou r plenary speakers had to pull out at a late stage, and I suggested to Emory (at very short no tice) that we might turn his session on the internationalization of the subject into a plenary event. As the room filled up to overflowing, Emory chose to abandon his pre-planned talk and to offer instead a wide-ranging personal account of the opportunities he had found in attempt ing to internationalize American studies over his professional career, along with the difficul ties and obstacles he had encountered. He was a fine scholar and a generous spirit, and he wil l be sorely missed.

Paul Giles
Professor of American Literature
Faculty of English
University of Oxford
April 3, 2009

For Emory -- A Tribute:

I first met Emory Elliott during a conference held at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, in 1999. He chaired the session in which I presented my paper. The format of the Conference d emanded that Chairs should read the paper in advance and introduce the speakers. Emory had tak en his job very seriously. He not only introduced me, he also highlighted the main issues of m y paper, going into meticulous detail, analyzing, commenting and appreciating what he had read . His reading of my paper was so insightful and sympathetic that it made me realize what a com mitted scholar is required to do and the effort that one needs to put into what is generally c onsidered a mere academic exercise. That was an eye-opener and I will always be grateful to Em ory for opening up doors to me that I did not even know existed!

Subsequently, I met Emory at Dartmouth where he and I were resource persons at Don Pease 's American Studies Institute. It was a brief but pleasant meeting and I fondly recall a boist erous evening spent with younger scholars at a pub, laughing and joking over giant-sized Marga ritas.

A year later, at a memorial held in honor of Nellie McKay, again, I ran into Emory at Ma dison, Wisconsin. It was a day-long, emotionally-charged event organized by Nellie's colleague s. As we sat around the same table for lunch at a local restaurant with Frances Foster, Susan Friedman and some others, Emory and I did some catching-up amid somber reminiscences of Nellie .

These were chance meetings but I exchanged emails frequently with Emory thereafter. When I invited him to give a keynote at the MELUS-MELOW conference at Chandigarh in 2007, he graci ously agreed. I think it was his first visit to India. We enjoyed his visit and he was appreci ative of all that he saw, the conference we had invited him to, and the people he interacted w ith.

On one of my trips to the US, I also had the opportunity to visit his department at Rive rside on a speaking engagement. What stands out in my memory is a dinner with Emory and anothe r colleague at a brightly lit Mission Inn all dressed up for Thanksgiving. I have some picture s to keep the memory alive. There was an air of festivity with Christmas carols decorative lig hts and happy people all around. Emory came across as a very gentle, amiable soul, very much a 'family' man, and he talked of his wife, his daughters and their families. He and his wife ha d recently returned from a visit to their children.

Emory was a good man and a committed academic. Like all those who knew him well, I too a m saddened at his demise.

On behalf of his friends in India I pray for the peace of his soul and that his family may have the strength to bear this loss. Rest In Peace.

Shanti, shanti, shanti.

Manju Jaidka
and members of MELUS-MELOW, India
April 4, 2009

Emory Elliott's invitation to me to serve on the International Committee of the ASA in the mid-1990s shaped in key ways my awareness of the place of American Studies outside the United States and helped set me on the path that led to the creation of the Journal of Transnational American Studies. Emory was central to the genesis of JTAS in ways that he himself was probably unaware of. It was at a conference on "Aesthetics and Difference" that he organized at UC-Riverside that I first met Shirley Geok-Lin Lim; it was there that our friendship began, and there that we first found that we were kindred spirits pursuing some related trajectories as scholars. JTAS was born out of conversations that ensued (in particular, that happened as a result of Shirley's having invited me to speak at UC-Santa Barbara, an occasion when I first met Eric Martinsen, Caroline Hong, and Yanoula Athanassakis.) I later met Nina Morgan through Shirley at an ASA conference. Only recently did I learn that it was Nina who had given Emory the idea of the "Aesthetics and Difference" conference to begin with. Without Emory's organizational enterprise, the conversations that culminated in the launching of JTAS might never have begun. His openness to a broad range of intellectual approaches and traditions modeled for me and many others a spirit of collegial generosity and respect that is often all too lacking in the academy. He was a living testimony to fact that our profession need not be the solitary enterprise it so often was. We will miss him!

Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Professor of English and Director of American Studies
Stanford University
April 6, 2009

Emory was a crucial influence in so many of my past and current endeavors. He brought me to UC Riverside on many occasions, and it was on that campus that I met so many of my closest friends, Nina and Shelley included. His generous gestures, always to be more inclusive, even when his own academic projects might have been divergent, have helped shaped the present generation of American Studies scholars in the United States and everywhere else globally. Emory loved his country and its literature deeply, and he loved all the peoples of the world equally. He told wonderful stories of lecturing in China, in Japan, in Europe; and he left enormous footprints wherever he landed. The one thing I'd like us all to remember about Emory's life is how many doors he opened to young and older academics, working class, men and women, straight and gay, of all ethnic celebrations; and how we must honor all these doors and continue to do his work of inclusion in this century he has left behind.

Shirley Geok-lin Lim
Professor of English, University of California, Santa Barbara
Honorary Professor, University of Hong Kong
April 6, 2009

Missing the Mission Impossible

When he revisited Japan as President of the ASA in June 2007, I invited Emory to give a special lecture, "New Directions in American Literary Criticism and American Studies," for my undergraduate and graduate students at Keio University on June 14, 2007 (Thursday). I started my introduction like this: "Every Thursday, I teach American literary history in this room 524 of West School Building. Since the Japanese academic year starts in April, I just finished the chapters on Early American literature last week. Having taught American Renaissance writers today, I'm very glad to be able to introduce to you in this very room the distinguished scholar and the tactical compiler of American literary history Professor Emory Elliott, current president of the American Studies Association, who revisited Japan this time primarily to give a presidential address at the annual meeting of the Japanese Association for American Studies held at Rikkyo University last weekend."

There is no doubt that Professor Elliott is an authority on American literature and American studies. However, we should also be aware that he is far from conservative. As the editor of numerous anthologies and collections, particularly The Columbia Literary History of the United States published in 1988, at the critical point between Deconstructive criticism and New Historicist and Postcolonial criticism, Professor Elliott very radically displaced the conventions of literary studies and foregrounded not consensus but dissensus among the contributors in order to reveal not the unity but the differences within the United States itself. Thus, his radical strategy helped subvert the traditionally conservative idea of literary history as the product of a common "sense." His literary history became so influential globally that major literary Americanists in Japan had heated discussions at several academic symposiums on re-canonization of literary history by developing and criticizing Emory's theory.

In retrospect, I first met Professor Elliott at the first annual conference of the Kyoto American Studies Summer Seminar held at Ritsumeikan University in July 1996, where I was asked to respond to his keynote speech entitled "Mission Impossible," in which he talked about how he came to accept the offer from Columbia University Press to take the risk of editing American literary history. Once again, I was intrigued by his radical strategy, for as far as I know there has been no American scholar who set up an analogy between the editor of literary history and the Tom Cruisean hero of espionage movies. In fact, his talk on the "Mission Impossible" turned out to be so inspiring as to make me speculate on the status of "Japan" in the discourse of American studies, to publish my own version of American literary history in 2000 (Keio UP), and to incorporate the fruits of our discussion into my recent book Full Metal Apache (Duke UP, 2006). Without his intellectual support I could not have elaborated on my own approaches to transnational American Studies in the past decade. This is the reason why when we met again in June 2007, I began by greeting him, "Welcome back to Japan!" A sad loss!

Takayuki Tatsumi
Professor of English
Keio University
Tokyo Japan
April 8, 2009

My sincere condolences to Mrs. Elliott and to the family in their loss of husband and father, Emory. I first had a conversation with Emory Elliott when IASA held its first executive council in Leiden. Since then, I had the honor of exchanging words and opinions on several different occasions when American Studies congresses were held in the US, Europe and Asia.... It is as a man of enthusiasm and sincerity that he is remembered. We will miss Emory dearly, Georgia.

Tatsushi Narita
Visiting Scholar
FAS and American Literature
Harvard University
April 9, 2009

Emory's passing away came as a shock. I first heard him deliver the keynote at the MELUS-MELOW International Conference at Chandigarh in 2007.... Emory hosted me at the UC-Riverside on March 3-4, 2008. He not only introduced me but also offered insightful suggestions vis-à-vis my talk on "Walt Whitman and Sufism." ... Emory's hospitality was matchless and so was his candor and forthrightness while sharing about his growth as a person and scholar. That early evening dinner on March 4 is etched deep in my memory as Emory had hosted it in the quaint Mission Inn hotel. He shared the story of his life despite his appointment elsewhere that night--the making of a phenomenal University Professor who had tremendous outreach with enviable degrees of academic commitment and a vision unmatched across the globe. Before he departed that night, he promised to visit our part of the world located in the foothills of Himalayas.... Can such an illustrious life ever die? ...The more I read about Emory and what he has done for American academia, I realize that death is a fallacy. Emory is/will be a presence, a beacon light for scholars (who happened to cross his path) within and outside the United States of America for all time to come.

Roshan Lal Sharma
Senior Lecturer
Postgraduate Department of English
Government College SOLAN (H.P.)
April 13, 2009