Joseph Frank

Joseph Frank, a professor emeritus of Slavic languages and literatures at Stanford University, passed away on February 27 at his home in Palo Alto, California, at the age of 94. His first major publication was the long essay “Spatial Form in Modern Literature,” which appeared in Sewanee Review in 1945, but he is chiefly known for his epoch-making five-volume critical biography of Dostoevsky, which was published between 1976 and 2002. A 2009 synopsis of this work, Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time, was condensed and edited by Mary Petrusewicz. Frank taught in the Department of Comparative Literature at Princeton from 1966 to 1985; he joined the Department of Comparative Literature at Stanford University in1985.

Frank had a special relationship with Rutgers. A member of the inaugural class of Rutgers’ Department of Comparative Literature, Larry Andrews, Dean Emeritus of the Honors College and Professor Emeritus of English at Kent State University, writes that Frank was one of the six faculty members who founded the department in Fall 1962. The chair was John O. McCormick (retired 1987), and the others were Joseph Frank, Serge Sobolevitch, Glauco Cambon, Francis Fergusson, and Robert Raymo. Andrews recalls that Frank and McCormick taught the Methods in Comparative Literature course “in a low-ceilinged room with a few one-armed student chairs…—in a clapboard two-story house at the corner of Hamilton and Union Streets.” Seminars in the Baroque, Romanticism, the European novel, and Symbolism were taught over two semesters in those years, and Frank taught a two-semester seminar entitled Dostoevsky and the West that enabled him to work out in class ideas that “later appeared in the early volumes” of the Dostoevsky biography. Andrews writes: “Frank demystified Dostoevsky for us by focusing on the intellectual milieu and the conscious response in each novel to the most current ideas of the time, at home and in Europe….He had little patience with biographical and psychological criticism that was ignorant of the original texts and of the intellectual context for Dostoevsky’s work.” He notes that Frank was “generous and penetrating as a teacher. At the end of the year he gave each of us students a book from his library, in my case a two-volume Nietzsche in German.”

Janet A. Walker (based on The New York Times obituary, the Stanford University obituary, and the reminiscences of Larry Andrews)

April 20, 2013


 M. Josephine Diamond


Gerald Pirog


James Jerome Wilhelm

James Jerome Wilhelm passed away near Youngstown, Ohio, the city of his birth, on December 13, 2012 at the age of 80. He earned a B.A. in English from Yale in 1954, graduating summa cum laude and valedictorian of his class. After studying Latin and Italian at the University of Bologna for a year, he earned an M.A. in English from Columbia in 1958 and then a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Yale in 1961. He taught in the Department of and then the Program in Comparative Literature at Rutgers for over 40 years, retiring in 1997. Serving as Graduate Director of Comparative Literature in the early 1980s, from 1969 to 1997 he directed nine dissertations: eight on topics in Italian, French, Welsh, Carolingian, and Medieval Latin poetry, and the ninth and last one on the theme of war in Ezra Pound’s poetry. His undergraduate courses Medieval Lyric and Medieval Epic and Romance regularly enrolled 200-300 students, and he also taught a seminar in Dante and Pound; at the graduate level he taught seminars in Old Provençal language and literature, medieval lyric, and medieval romance. A former graduate student, Dr. Barbara Hamilton (Ph.D. 2009) of Mercer County Community College recalls: “Dr. Wilhelm seemed to know everything, and he made us want to know everything, too. He had an incredibly syncretic mind, as quick to bring in the Tarot and Hermes Trismegistus as Aquinas and Augustine, flashing like quicksilver from the Romans to the Welsh to contemporary reworkings of the Arthurian cycle, from the Orphic cults to the Danelaw without missing a beat.”

Dr. Wilhelm was one of the North American scholars who spearheaded a renewed interest in medieval Occitan poetry, publishing Seven Troubadours: The Creators of Modern Verse (1970), and translations of the poetry of Arnaut Daniel (1981) and Sordello (1987). His anthologies of translations Medieval Song: An Anthology of Hymns and Lyrics (1971) and Lyrics of the Middle Ages: An Anthology (1990) provided generations of scholars and students with a large selection of medieval poetry in several languages. In 1984 he co-edited and –translated The Romance of Arthur: An Anthology, with Laila Zamuelis Gross; after her death he alone edited two other volumes of Arthurian materials from various European countries, and in 1994 The Romance of Arthur, New Expanded Edition: An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation appeared. The third edition of this last text was published, co-edited with Norris J. Lacy, six days after his death in 2012. As a comparatist, Dr. Wilhelm drew significant connections between medieval and modern literature in his Dante and Pound: The Epic of Judgment (1974) and Il Miglior Fabbro: The Cult of the Difficult in Daniel, Dante, and Pound (1982). He also published separate studies of Pound: The Later Cantos of Ezra Pound (1977), Ezra Pound in London and Paris, 1908-1925 (1990), and Ezra Pound: The Tragic Years, 1925-1972 (1994). His final publication was the edited volume Gay and Lesbian Poetry: An Anthology from Sappho to Michelangelo (1995).Dr. Wilhelm was for many years an editor at Garland Press, publishing numerous translations of medieval literature as well as dissertations ranging from Classical Antiquity to the present.