VOL. XXXIX • 1986
Introduction to "Reading," an Address by Joseph H. Summers
On December 28th, 1984, the Milton Society of America, meeting at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., designated Joseph H. Summers as Honored Scholar for 1984, and this is but the most recent of the many honors that have been awarded our Roswell S. Burrows Professor of English. In the course of a distinguished career, he has held fellowships from the Folger and the Huntington libraries, and from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. During the academic year 1966-67 he was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, and since 1982 he has been a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He joined the English Department at the University of Rochester in 1969 after having taught previously at Bard College, the University of Connecticut, Washington University, and Michigan State University. His work as a scholar of renaissance and seventeenth-century English literature is greatly esteemed and notably various. He has written critical studies on virtually all the major poets of the period. His study of George Herbert's religion and art appeared in 1954; The Muse's Method, his study of Milton's Paradise Lost, in 1965; The Heirs of Donne and Jonson, in 1970. Most recently, there has been his volume of essays on Shakespeare's plays, Dreams of Power and Love (1984). Between books have come a notable series of articles including an important group on the poet Andrew Marvell. The profound influence his published work has had is indicated by the number of times it has been reprinted. His books on Herbert and on Milton have each been reprinted twice; and individual articles as well as single chapters of all his books are regularly included in critical anthologies. His essay on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, first published in 1955, has by now become something of a classic in the criticism of Shakespearean comedy. But though Summers' scholarly work has always had its focus in the literature of the renaissance and seventeenth century, his literary interests are broad. His concern with the religious poetry of the seventeenth century has extended to an interest in general issues concerning the treatment of religious subjects in literature. He has written perceptively about the work of such twentieth-century American poets as Richard Wilbur, Elizabeth Bishop, and Edwin Muir. In recent years he has become increasingly interested in, and has taught courses at Rochester dealing with, the literature written in English by authors living in the post-colonial worlds of the Caribbean, Africa and India.
Joseph Summers' contribution, as scholar and teacher, to the English Department at the University of Rochester has been profound. His contribution to the graduate program in English at this University has been especially significant. He served as Director of Graduate Studies for the English Department from 1970-1972. The doctoral students who have studied with him during his sixteen years here represent some of our most successful Ph.D.s. He has been a greatly respected, much loved colleague, and our regret that he has now chosen to retire is only offset by the pleasure we take in his behalf for the uninterrupted time he will now have to read, to write, to travel, to cultivate the spectacular flower gardens that surround his house on Crosman Terrace where -- we fervently hope -- he and his wife (the splendid U. T.) will long continue to dwell among us and share our company.