Sundquist, Eric J. 1952-

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Sundquist, Eric J. 1952-

PERSONAL:

Born August 21, 1952, in McPherson, KS. Education: University of Kansas, B.A., 1974; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1975, Ph.D., 1978.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Sherman Oaks, CA. Office—Department of English, University of California, Los Angeles, CA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, member of English faculty, 1978-80; University of California, Berkeley, member of English faculty, 1980-89; University of California, Los Angeles, member of English faculty, 1989-97, 2002—, department chair, 1993-97; Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 1997-2002.

MEMBER:

Modern Language Association of America, American Studies Association.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Gustave Ault Award from Council of Graduate Schools in the United States, 1979, for Home as Found: Authority and Genealogy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature; Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award, 2006; Distinguished Service Citation, University of Kansas, 2008.

WRITINGS:

Home as Found: Authority and Genealogy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1979.

(Editor) American Realism: New Essays, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1982.

Faulkner: The House Divided, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1983.

(Editor) New Essays on Uncle Tom's Cabin, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1986.

(Editor) Frederick Douglass: New Literary and Historical Essays, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1990.

The Hammers of Creation: Folk Culture in Modern African-American Fiction, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1992.

(Editor and author of introduction) Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1993.

To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1993.

(Editor) Mark Twain: A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1994.

(Editor and author of introduction) Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press (Boston, MA), 1995.

(Editor) The Oxford W.E.B. Du Bois Reader, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

Empire and Slavery in American Literature, 1820-1865, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 2006.

King's Dream, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2008.

SIDELIGHTS:

Writer and educator Eric J. Sundquist was born August 21, 1952, in McPherson, Kansas. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Kansas, then continued his education at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where he earned both his master's degree and his doctorate. Over the course of his career, Sundquist has served on the faculty at a number of universities, including Johns Hopkins, the University of California at Berkeley, Northwestern, and the University of California at Los Angeles. A member of the Modern Language Association of America and the American Studies Association, he has won a number of awards, including the prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006, which consists of a prize of one and a half million dollars divided over a three-year period. He is also the author of a number of books, most of which focus on the literature, culture, and society in the United States from the mid-nineteenth century through the early part of the twentieth century.

To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature takes a look at the ways in which American literature has dealt with works by African American writers over the history of the country. As Sundquist points out, until approximately the 1970s, writings by African Americans might very well have not existed at all, for all the attention they received in the study of American literature and the critical analysis given over to the country's major writers. However, even as academia and literary experts have shifted their viewpoint in recent years to include the works of African American writers in the so-called national literary canon, they have not gone very far in the direction of analyzing the writing as part of the broader picture of American letters. Sundquist attempts to remedy this by looking at all types of American literature that forms the backbone of the nation's written and cultural history and addresses the question of how works by different races are similar or different, and how they blend together as a whole. Keneth Kinnamon, in a review for the Journal of English and Germanic Philology, remarked that "without neglecting artistic considerations of form and content … or mythic implications …, Sundquist places his emphasis on the relation of the writers and texts he discusses to the relevant culture and history of the period from 1830 to 1930." He went on to conclude that the book is "one of the great works of American literary scholarship." Dana D. Nelson, writing for Modern Language Quarterly, found Sundquist's work to be "an exemplary model of historicist, intercultural literary analysis."

Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, for which Sundquist served as editor and as author of the introduction, is a collection of thirty-four brief works that take a look at Ellison's Invisible Man and attempt to offer readers a wide range of information that provides suitable context for how the book impacted the world upon publication. The essays address the social, historical, and artistic issues of the day, and use them as a framework from which it becomes more obvious that Ellison wrote a powerful, important book that could be analyzed on various levels. Each piece focuses on the cultural backdrop that Ellison was familiar with as he wrote his book, and Sundquist offers brief introductions to each essay in order to provide insight and context that might not be obvious from the work itself. Overall, the essays not only illuminate the cultural and social relevance and importance of Ellison's effort, but they serve to show just how influential African American culture and writing was on the larger culture of America as a whole. Sundquist organized the book in such a way as to guarantee a wide cultural framework, including not just literary comparisons, but art, music, folktales, and both racial and class politics. David Goldstein-Shirley, in a review for Melus, expressed disappointment in the fact that only two of the essays included in the volume were written by women, but ultimately he concluded that "Sundquist's achievement is prodigious. No one interested in American letters can ignore Ellison's novel, and no one interested in Ellison's novel can afford to skip this book."

In Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America, Sundquist takes a look at the relationship between American Jews and African Americans, one that has frequently experienced both highs and lows over the course of the nation's modern history. Looking at various forms of popular culture and entertainment, including books, films, historical writings, and sociology, Sundquist attempts to discern what the prevailing attitude might be between these two cultural groups. He addresses major works of literature by authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin, prompting a reviewer for Publishers Weekly to comment that "Sundquist is most engrossing when delving into a specific work, such as Bernard Malamud's The Tenants or Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird." Glen Anthony Harris, reviewing for the Canadian Journal of History, concluded that "the book is technically solid, with insightful writing, and is impeccably researched. Focusing on a literary argument, Sundquist balances general social and political polemics with well-timed accounts from literary works of fiction."

Sundquist told CA: "The most effective way to teach good writing is to teach good reading. No one will write well if his or her reading does not constantly offer a challenge."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Canadian Journal of History, spring, 2007, Glen Anthony Harris, review of Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America.

Journal of English and Germanic Philology, July 1, 1995, Keneth Kinnamon, review of To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature, p. 437.

Melus, spring, 1999, David Goldstein-Shirley, review of Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, p. 246.

Modern Language Quarterly, September 1, 1994, Dana D. Nelson, review of To Wake the Nations, p. 339.

Publishers Weekly, August 15, 2005, review of Strangers in the Land, p. 43.