Schwartz, Richard B. 1941-
SCHWARTZ, Richard B. 1941-
Born October 5, 1941, in Cincinnati, OH; son of Jack J. (an attorney) and Marie (a banker; maiden name, Schnelle) Schwartz; married Judith Lang (a teacher and writer), September 7, 1963; children: Jonathan. Education: University of Notre Dame, A.B., 1963; University of Illinois, A.M., 1964, Ph.D., 1967. Religion: Roman Catholic.
Office—Arts and Science Dean's Office, University of Missouri—Columbia, 317 Lowry Hall, Columbia, MO 65211-6080. E-mail—[email protected].
National Council of Teachers of English, Urbana, IL, staff assistant, 1966; U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY, instructor in English, 1967-69; University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, assistant professor, 1969-72, associate professor, 1972-78, professor of English, 1978-81, associate dean of graduate school, 1977, 1979-81; Georgetown University, Washington, DC, professor of English and dean of the graduate school, 1981-98; University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, professor of English and dean of the College of Arts and Science, 1998—. Has served as consultant to the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the United States Office of Education. Military service: U.S. Army, 1967-69; became captain.
Modern Language Association of America, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Council of Graduate Schools, Johnson Society of Southern California.
National Endowment for the Humanities grant, 1970; research awards, University of Wisconsin, 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978; outstanding professor citation, Senior Class Council, University of Wisconsin, 1972; Institute for Research in the Humanities fellow, 1976; American Council of Learned Societies fellow, 1978-79; H. I. Romnes fellowship, University of Wisconsin, 1978-81.
Samuel Johnson and the New Science, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1971.
Samuel Johnson and the Problem of Evil, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1975.
Boswell's Johnson: A Preface to the "Life," University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1978.
(Editor and author of introduction) The Plays of Arthur Murphy, four volumes, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1979.
Daily Life in Johnson's London, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1983.
Frozen Stare (novel), St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor) Theory and Tradition in Eighteenth-Century Studies, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1990.
After the Death of Literature, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1997.
The Biggest City in America: A Fifties Boyhood in Ohio (memoir), University of Akron Press (Akron, OH), 1999.
The Last Voice You Hear (novel), Mystery and Suspense Press (San Jose, CA), 2001.
Into the Dark (novel), Mystery and Suspense Press (San Jose, CA), 2002.
Nice and Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2002.
Contributor to books, including Probability, Time, and Space in Eighteenth-Century Literature, edited by Paula R. Backscheider, AMS Press, 1979; The Unknown Samuel Johnson, edited by John Burke and Donald Kay, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1982; A Reference Guide to British Literary Magazines, Volume 1, edited by Alvin Sullivan, Greenwood Press, 1983; Boswell's Life of Johnson: New Questions, New Answers, edited by John A. Vance, University of Georgia Press, 1985. Contributor of article on James Boswell to American Academic Encyclopedia, Grolier. Has also contributed articles and reviews to publications including Eighteenth-Century Studies, Philological Quarterly, Studies in Burke and His Time, Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Modern Philology, South Atlantic Quarterly, Albion, Genre, Sewanee Review, New Rambler, Journal of the Johnson Society of London, Eighteenth-Century Life, Georgia Review, Washington Quarterly, Studies in English Literature, Washington Post Book World, American Scientist, Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography, Scriblerian and the Kit-Cats, NEFARIOUS—Tales of Mystery, HandHeldCrime, College Literature, and others.
Richard B. Schwartz is an academic with wide literary interests. He has written several books on eighteenth-century author and critic Samuel Johnson, as well as a series of crime novels. Bridging these extremes are his books After the Death of Literature and Nice and Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction. Schwartz first established himself as a Johnson scholar with Samuel Johnson and the New Science. In this study, Schwartz reviews Johnson's observations on science with the purpose of showing that "the Perpetual Moralist" had positive views on science, contrary to his general reputation. Writing in Isis, G. S. Rousseau observed that the book proved science to be "a lesser branch of Johnsonian scholarship," but that it was also "impressive and accurate" and the first work to treat the subject. Observing that Diderot had a similar interest in the "utilitarian and didactic value of science" but applied them to different ends, Paul Lawrence Farber noted in Eighteenth-Century Studies that Schwartz "raises the … interesting problem of how ideas filter across national borders to different cultural milieus." And M. C. Jacob commented in American Historical Review: "Schwartz has rescued Johnson from a prevalent misapprehension that he had little appreciation for the new science and in the process has made a significant contribution to eighteenth-century literary studies."
Johnson's review of Soame Jenyns's Free Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil is the focal point of Schwartz's next study, Samuel Johnson and the Problem of Evil, which delineates Johnson's beliefs about moral and physical evil. Responding to the book in English Language Notes, Thomas R. Preston found that "clarifications… are most welcome, and Mr. Schwartz has the ability to present them in an organized and categorized manner. At the same time, this taxonomical approach tends to ignore the deep passion underlying Johnson's analysis of evil." English Studies reviewer Arthur Clayborough, advised that "its chief value… lies in the fact that it reinforces and makes more explicit the general impression of Johnson's position as a practical moralist." John M. Walker Jr. said that the book is "extraordinarily good" in his Eighteenth-Century Studies review, adding that it is "a quick but solid tour of Johnson's thought on this central problem of our existence clearly related to the thought of his time."
When Schwartz authored Boswell's Johnson: A Preface to the "Life," he entered controversial territory. In this book, he seeks to show how The Life of Johnson by Johnson's contemporary James Boswell revealed much about the biographer and not enough about Johnson. Several reviewers were resistant to Schwartz's continuation of an existing argument, including Robert H. Bell, who commented in Modern Language Quarterly that "despite persistent attempts to be fair, Schwartz continually damns Boswell with faint praise, for collecting but not assimilating 'a wealth of material, much of it unavailable elsewhere.'" Bell did commend the chapter "Johnson's Johnson," a sketch of Johnson that combines elements from his own work, as "a succinct, loving, and moving portrait which offers several important perceptions about Johnson's spiritual pilgrimage." In Eighteenth-Century Studies, Irma S. Lustig strongly disagreed with the author's attempt to unseat Boswell as the authority on Johnson in favor of the deductions of modern scholarship: "In a book dignified by scholarly apparatus and addressed to scholars, the failure wholly to observe the scholarly method is the fundamental flaw." And Modern Philology 's William R. Siebenschuh warned that the book is "little less than a declaration of war," but admired that "from start to finish Schwartz is contentious in the best senses, and one of the most attractive aspects of the book is his awareness at all times of the full implications of what he is arguing." Siebenschuh recommended the book as "a clear and responsible articulation of what is becoming a major school of thought about the Life and Boswell's achievement as a biographer."
In After the Death of Literature Schwartz applies Johnsonian ideas to contemporary arguments about literary studies. He recommends that academics turn their attention to the music, electronics, and popular culture that is important to their students and concentrate less heavily on identity-based literary criticism. This makes for "a valuable contribution to the counterrevolution to postmodernism," according to World Literature Today critic Robert D. Spector, who said that Schwartz "shrewdly applies the commonsensical principles of Johnson to a series of major topics." College Literature reviewer Sheree L. Meyer responded that "Schwartz, perhaps too easily, dismissed the concerns of revisionist scholars and identity politics. Concerns regarding racial and gender differences, for example, do not reflect his personal experience; therefore, Schwartz concludes that they do not reflect reality." But she concluded that the author does, with other writers, perhaps "indicate a peculiar, unique, and potentially deadly crisis in literary studies."
Schwartz began a series of detective novels with Frozen Stare and its sequel, The Last Voice You Hear, which feature private investigator Jack Grant, a Vietnam vet working in Pasadena, California. In the second novel, Grant links two murders in London and Disneyland, but he becomes conflicted about revealing the identity of the killer because he sympathizes with the cause that motivates the crimes. A Publishers Weekly writer called the book "engrossing" and "a high-tension thriller awash in sanguinary detail." In the following novel, After the Fall, the husband of a former girlfriend asks Grant to investigate her disappearance, which turns into a murder case. Grant begins working with policewoman Diana Craig, causing both investigators to become targets for murder. This book is an "engaging hard-boiled mystery," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. Into the Dark is the next Jack Grant novel, in which a well-known painter appears to have committed suicide, but his sister calls it murder and hires Jack to discover the truth.
Nice and Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction shows Schwartz's great familiarity with the crime genre and literary analysis. Choice writer S. Raeschild described the book as marked by "charm and wit" but missing "an organizing pattern that would offer a neophyte… a clear overview" of the subject.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, June, 1973, M. C. Jacob, review of Samuel Johnson and the New Science, pp. 686-687.
Choice, April, 1998, W. F. Williams, review of After the Death of Literature; November, 2002, S. Raeschild, review of Nice and Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction.
College Literature, fall, 1999, Sheree L. Meyer, review of After the Death of Literature, p. 243.
Eighteenth-Century Studies, summer, 1973, Paul Lawrence Farber, review of Samuel Johnson and the New Science, pp. 524-545; spring, 1976, John M. Walker Jr., review of Samuel Johnson and the Problem of Evil, pp. 444-446; spring, 1980, Irma S. Lustig, review of Boswell's Johnson, pp. 344-348.
English Language Notes, June, 1977, Thomas R. Preston, review of Samuel Johnson and the Problem of Evil, pp. 298-300.
English Studies, June, 1978, Arthur Clayborough, review of Samuel Johnson and the Problem of Evil, pp. 273-276.
Isis, December, 1972, G. S. Rousseau, review of Samuel Johnson and the New Science, pp. 582-584.
Library Journal, April 15, 1975, Joan H. Owen, review of Samuel Johnson and the Problem of Evil, p. 766.
Modern Language Quarterly, March, 1979, Robert H. Bell, review of Boswell's Johnson, pp. 80-82.
Modern Philology, August, 1980, William R. Siebenschuh, review of Boswell's Johnson, pp. 90-93.
Publishers Weekly, February 24, 2003, review of The Last Voice You Hear, p. 56; August 25, 2003, review of After the Fall, p. 43.
Review of English Studies, February, 1980, Pat Rogers, review of Boswell's Johnson, pp. 86-89.
Washington Times, November 23, 1997, Colin Walters, "Literature's Death, Greatly Exaggerated," p. B6.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1998, Robert D. Spector, review of After the Death of Literature, p. 829.*