Kern, Edith 1912–2005

views updated

Kern, Edith 1912–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born February 7, 1912, in Düsseldorf, Germany; died September 29, 2005, in New York, NY. Educator and author. A professor emerita at Smith College, Kern was a teacher of Romance languages and comparative literature who was one of the first people to write a scholarly article on Samuel Beckett. She emigrated from Germany in 1938 and later became a U.S. citizen. A 1942 graduate of Bridgewater College, she earned her M.A. in 1944 and her Ph.D. in 1946, both from Johns Hopkins University. She then taught briefly at the University of Maryland before moving on to the University of Kansas, where she was on the faculty from 1947 to 1952. The rest of the 1950s were spent at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was director of the television teaching project. During the 1950s, she also became notable for writing the first scholarly article on Beckett published in the United States (it appeared in Yale French Studies). Kern joined St. John's University as professor of French in 1960, and from 1965 to 1972 she taught comparative literature and Romance literature at the University of Washington. Continuing her peripatetic career, she was next Silbert Professor of Humanities and chair of the comparative literature department at Smith, and from 1977 to 1981 was John Cranford Adams Professor at Hofstra University. She left teaching for a time to direct a number of seminars for the National Endow-ment for the Humanities, as well as serving as president of the Modern Language Association from 1976 to 1977. Kern's last teaching job was with the New School in New York City, which she joined in 1986. Her scholarly articles were widely published and translated, and she was the author or editor of several books, including Sartre: A Collection of Critical Essays (1962), Existential Thought and Fictional Technique: Kierkegaard, Sartre, Beckett (1970), and Tradition and Innovation in Comedy: A Contribution to the History of Laughter (1984). In addition to these accomplishments, Kern was also founding editor of the journal Dada/Surrealism.



Chronicle of Higher Education, December 2, 2005, p. A38.

New York Times, October 9, 2005, p. A44.