Schor, Esther H.
Schor, Esther H.
Education: Yale University, Ph.D., 1985.
Writer, poet, educator, biographer, and advisor. Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, professor of English and job search advisor for graduate students, 1986—. Taught at Tufts University and Barnard College, Columbia University.
(Editor, with Pat C. Hoy II and Robert DiYanni) Women's Voices: Visions and Perspectives, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1990.
Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1994.
The Hills of Holland (poems), Archer Books (Los Angeles, CA), 2002.
(Editor) The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Emma Lazarus, Nextbook/Schocken (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Times Literary Supplement, New York Times Book Review, and Forward.
Poet, author, historian, and biographer Esther H. Schor is a professor of English at Princeton University, where she specializes in British romanticism, Judaic studies, and the Bible as literature, according to a biographer on the Princeton University Department of English Web site. In Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria, Schor looks at the process and purpose of mourning the dead, as it developed in eighteenth-century Britain. She looks at the works of prominent poets, including Wordsworth, and noted poetic works of the time, such as Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," to support her assessment that mourning "was a crucial experience through which the British of the late eighteenth century learned how to share their grief, and through such a sympathetic exchange imagine themselves as a community," observed Thomas Kselman in the Journal of Social History. She finds mourning and grief to be cultural rather than individual or psychological phenomena and concludes that mourning and its expression in significant events and major creative works of the time is a means whereby communities learned to recognize their coherence and solidarity. "Schor explains in her introduction that the study is intended as a corrective to the widespread influence of Freud's focus on the individual psychology of grief in Mourning and Melancholia; the story of mourning is only half-told, according to Schor, without the counter-tale of its extremely significant public dimension," commented Linda Brigham, writing in College Literature. Schor offers the 1817 death in childbirth of Princess Charlotte as a national event that triggered serious mourning that helped calm political fears, console the bereaved, and bring the nation together, linked by a common tragedy.
Schor "provides a clear, detailed, and theoretically self-conscious study of the secularization of mourning in a wide range of philosophical and literary texts," noted Terence R. Wright in the Review of English Studies. Schor's "suggestive and thoughtfully written study examines mourning as ethical and social action in the philosophy, politics, and poetry of the century that closed with the accession of Queen Victoria," noted Brigham. "I do not always find convincing, or entirely clear, Schor's transitions between aspects and phases of her argument, but there is always at stake something important and worth thinking about," remarked Henry Staten in the Modern Language Review. Garrett Stewart, writing in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology, concluded: "This important book is a model of its kind."
The Hills of Holland is a collection of Schor's poetry. Her poetic works, as represented in this volume, "have a sure ear and an eclectic voice; over and over we are surprised (even delighted) by unexpected juxtapositions of sound, image, and suggestion," observed Stephen C. Behrendt in the Prairie Schooner. "Schor's poems are not pyrotechnic—her deliberateness and careful craftsmanship ensures that they are far more than surface flash—but their relish of language and their delight in the unexpected mark them as something very special indeed," remarked Behrendt. Schor demonstrates a "painterly eye and a keen ear," and in many of her works "drops her armor of aestheticism and lets a range of emotions show," noted Matthew Flamm, writing in the New York Times Book Review. "In every sense of the word, The Hills of Holland is a performance to be remembered and savored," concluded Behrendt.
Emma Lazarus is Schor's biography of the woman whose stirring and encouraging sonnet, "The New Colossus," adorns the base of the Statue of Liberty. The poem's message of freedom, in which the statue symbolizes the United States saying "Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," has long encouraged both generations of immigrants and Americans born on U.S. soil. Schor explores the poem's origins in a fund-raiser intended to gather the resources to build the pedestal upon which the French-donated statue would stand. She also provides an in-depth biography of Lazarus, chronicling her early years, her adulthood, her status as a poet, and her progressive attitudes which made her "an activist, feminist, and secular Jew before such terms existed," commented Joyce Peseroff in Tikkun. In Emma Lazarus, Schor "sweeps Lazarus down from the schoolroom pedestal, giving us a delicious and vivid, frequently wry and touchingly sympathetic record of ‘a being, not a poem,’" stated Commentary reviewer Michael Weingrad.
Schor offers a clear and balanced assessment of Lazarus's life and talents, recognizing her as a human with flaws and as a poet whose greatest accomplishments lie outside her literary work. "As the dozen examples in Schor's appendix reveal, Lazarus is everywhere balanced and competent, almost never memorable. Her achievement in literature was largely thematic—the open treatment of Jewish subjects in American poetry—not artistic," Weingrad concluded. Weekly Standard reviewer Abby Wisse Schachter concluded that Schor proves Emma Lazarus "should finally take her place and be celebrated as one of the great heroines of Jewish history." Weingrad remarked that it is "unlikely that, for a general audience, Schor's biography will be surpassed any time in the near future.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Biography, spring, 2007, Christopher Benfey, Caleb Crain, and Elaine Glaser, review of Emma Lazarus, p. 279.
Booklist, September 1, 2006, Ray Olson, review of Emma Lazarus, p. 39.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, March 1, 1994, K.P. Mulcahy, review of The Other Mary Shelley: Beyond Frankenstein, p. 1128; July 1, 2004, J.T. Lynch, review of The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley, p. 2042; April 1, 2007, S.L. Kremer, review of Emma Lazarus, p. 1344.
College English, March, 1995, Elizabeth A. Fay, review of The Other Mary Shelley, p. 341.
College Literature, June, 1997, Linda Brigham, review of Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria, p. 195.
Commentary, April, 2007, "The Lady & the Poet," review of Emma Lazarus, p. 81.
Journal of English and Germanic Philology, October, 1996, Garrett Stewart, review of Bearing the Dead, p. 567.
Journal of Social History, summer, 1996, Thomas Kselman, review of Bearing the Dead, p. 981.
Keats-Shelley Journal, January, 2005, Nora Crook, review of The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley, p. 218.
Library Journal, September 1, 2006, Stacy Shotsberger Russo, review of Emma Lazarus, p. 146.
Modern Language Review, April, 1997, Henry Staten, review of Bearing the Dead, p. 456.
Modern Philology, May, 1997, David Simpson, review of Bearing the Dead, p. 538.
New York Review of Books, February 15, 2007, Christopher Benfey, "The Convert," p. 49.
New York Times Book Review, May 4, 2003, Matthew Flamm, "Books in Brief: Fiction & Poetry," review of The Hills of Holland, p. 24; December 31, 2006, Caleb Crain, "Mother of Exiles," review of Emma Lazarus, p. 18.
Nineteenth-Century Literature, June, 1995, review of Bearing the Dead, p. 139.
Novel, spring, 1995, Scott Simpkins, review of The Other Mary Shelley, p. 358.
Prairie Schooner, fall, 2005, Stephen C. Behrendt, review of The Hills of Holland, p. 181.
Publishers Weekly, July 24, 2006, review of Emma Lazarus, p. 47.
Review of English Studies, February, 1997, Terence R. Wright, review of Bearing the Dead, p. 116.
Times Literary Supplement, November 19, 1993, Nigel Leask, review of The Other Mary Shelley, p. 19; May 26, 1995, John Mullan, review of Bearing the Dead, p. 11; May 26, 1995, John Mullan, review of Bearing the Dead, p. 11; May 7, 2004, Caroline Franklin, "The Mother of a Monster," review of The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley, p. 26; January 19, 2007, Elaine Glaser, "Deed over Creed," p. 26.
Tikkun, March-April, 2007, Joyce Peseroff, review of Emma Lazarus, p. 77.
Victorian Studies, winter, 1996, Linda H. Peterson, review of Bearing the Dead, p. 258.
Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1995, review of Bearing the Dead, p. 82.
Weekly Standard, November 20, 2006, Abby Wisse Schachter, "A Jewish Heroine; There's More to Emma Lazarus Than the Statue of Liberty," review of Emma Lazarus.
Princeton University Department of English Web site,http://english.princeton.edu/ (August 1, 2007).
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (August 1, 2007), biography of Esther Schor.