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Home :: Archive :: 1990 :: August ::
O.B. Hardison, Jr. (265)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 1, No. 18. Thursday, 9 Aug 1990.
 
 
(1)   Date:         Thu, 09 Aug 90 08:48:30 EDT              (22 lines)
      From:         Ken Steele <
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      Subject:      O.B. Hardison, Jr.
 
(2)   Date: Wed, 8 Aug 90 22:01 EDT                         (224 lines)
      From: "Hardy M. Cook" <
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      Subject: O.B. Hardison
 
(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date:         Thu, 09 Aug 90 08:48:30 EDT
From:         Ken Steele <
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 >
Subject:      O.B. Hardison, Jr.
 
 
It is with great regret that I must announce the passing of one of
SHAKSPER's earliest and most enthusiastic proponents.  O.B. Hardison
had hoped to participate in this conference, and placed his name
on the preliminary membership list earlier this year.  The Bitnet
community, and the scholarly community at large, will miss his
critical insight and amiable wit.
 
My appreciation to Hardy M. Cook for submitting the following
transcriptions.
 
                                  Ken Steele
                                  Editor, SHAKSPER
                                  University of Toronto
 
                                  <
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                                   or <KSTEELE@utorepas>
 
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------231---
Date: Wed, 8 Aug 90 22:01 EDT
From: "Hardy M. Cook" <
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Subject: O.B. Hardison
 
 
The following appreciation and obituary appeared in *The Washington
Post* of Tuesday, August 7, 1990.
 
          Hardy M. Cook
          Bowie State University
          
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              -----------------------------------
 
"The Essential Renaissance Man: Former Folger Director O.B. Hardison's
Cheering Visions"
 
By Sarah Booth Conroy
 
 
O.B. Hardison Jr. thought it might be possible to become immortal.  At
least, he postulated, come the millennium, the "notion of morality"
might be changed through the birth of "mind child," conceived and
hatched by down-loading the spiritual essence of a person into a
machine.
 
He explained all this in a fashion more in the mode of a poet rather
than a pontificator, in a wonderful book that became a bestseller,
"Disappearing Through the Skylight -- Culture and Technology in the
Twentieth Century."
 
The book was published in February, the second of a projected trilogy,
an effort to reconcile machines' way with humans.
 
Everyone expected O.B., as everyone called him, to live forever.  He
was more than two months from his 62nd birthday and his years looked
good on him.
 
Hardison died Sunday, at Georgetown University Hospital, of a blood
clot, a month after he found he had cancer.  A few hours before he
suddenly died, be gave ritual handshakes, made a number of witty
observations and, as usual, cheered up everybody.  He died the way he
lived.
 
In Who's Who, he called himself an educator.  Washington Post writer
Curt Supple, in his review of "Disappearing," called Hardison -- in an
understatement -- Washington's "most prolific, intellectual ambidexter
humanist/technophile."
 
At the time of his death, Hardison was a professor at Georgetown
University, who filled classes by making Shakespeare and Milton and
the rest of Renaissance literature so fascinating that students would
sooner miss "Twin Peaks" than his class.
 
He was full of fire.  He lit up the room with his torch of
enthusiasm.  He had a lust for the intellect -- a poem for every
problem.  He was a man the grand manner.  When Hardison told a story
or waved an arm, he called up the spirits -- you looked around for the
ghost of Hamlet's father or the spirit Ariel of "The Tempest."
 
Hardison also had about him a grace a Southern style of politeness,
yet a bard's gift for the bawdy.  He once said be and his wife
Marifrancis's marriage was "founded on the hard rock of eternal lust."
 
He came to Washington in 1969 to be the director of the Folger
Library.  Just about the first thing he said was "Why isn't anyone
putting on plays in the theater?"  And lo and behold, he hired
Richmond Crinkley to do that very thing, and the Folger Theatre became
the place to hear the speech, spoken trippingly on the tongue.
 
Hardison had big, romantic ideas of what could be done.  He saw the
Folger as a place for a cultural court.  He rejected a prissy grace-
and-favor house, and instead moved into an old Victorian across the
street from the Folger, where he could literally keep an eye on the
place.  Hardison, with Marifrancis and their six children, made the
place into a 24-hour literary salon and a meeting-and-greeting place
for everybody from medieval scholars to potters and musicians.
 
No one really expected him to up and leave the Folger.  But in 1983,
he learned to use a computer and a Xerox machine so he didn't need a
secretary anymore.  And he'd raised $8.5 million to add to and
recondition the Folger, including the Treasure Room and the new
Reading Room.  So he felt free to go -- he wanted the time to "write
and think -- and to be a Bohemian, my secret proclivity."
 
In the seven short years that he was granted, he did all those things.
O.B. and Marifrancis kept up their hospitality with the groaning board
and the provocative guest list.  He amassed honorary degrees from
seven educational institutions, served on dozens of boards, received
medals of every metal spoke against textbook censorship and for a
complicated concept that he called "A Tree, a Streamlined Fish, and a
Self-Squared Dragon."  He taught his computer to compose iambic
pentameter -- "'not great iambic pentameter, but it scans for the most
part," he said -- and to recite "Lycidas."
 
He was a passionate defender of artistic freedom.  In "Entering the
Maze," the first book of his trilogy, he wrote: "Quality of art work
is more important in the long run than its ideology. . . .  There is
probably no kind of art that has not seemed threatening to the
established order at one time or another."
 
Hardison was also a man who knew a hawk (a plasterer's tool) from a
handsaw (a carpenter's implement).  He liked to point out a picture
frame that he made using a knot in the wood as a part of the design.
He and his tribe years ago bought a country cottage near Syria, Va.,
without any plumbing (the brook served as a tub) or electricity (the
family was good at lighting fires) and made it a mecca.
 
Hardison wrote at the end of "Disappearing" of a new chrysalis for
humans.  "What will those shining constructs of silicon and gold and
arsenic and geranium look like as they sail the spaces between worlds?
They will be invisible, but we can try to imagine them even as
fishermen on the other side of the mirror that is the water's surface.
 
"They will be telepathic since they will hear with antennas. . . .
They will not need sound to hear music or light to see beauty . . . .
 
"Silicon life will be immortal.  The farthest reaches of space will be
accessible to it.  For silicon beings, 100,000 light years will be as
a day's journey on earth, or if they wish, as a refreshing sleep from
which, when the sensors show the journey is over they will awaken with
no sense of passage of time or -- what is the same thing -- with
visions 'of what is past, or passing, or to come.'"
 
Written on computer discs in his Dupont Circle row house is the third
book of Hardison's triumphant trilogy.  Even after Hardison learned,
about a month ago, that be had cancer, he thought he had time to make
the book ready to print out.
 
Those of us who expected him to find the Holy Grail -- or the fountain
of youth, the message from the universe, the eternal secret -- hope
those final computer discs have been duplicated, printed out and
secured in the safety deposit vault.
 
For who knows?  This last book may tell us that he figured out how to
become immortal -- through the printed word and the memories of those
whose lives he sprinkled with shining hope.
 
                    --------------------------------
 
"O.B. Hardison Dies at 61; Was Head of Folger Library"
 
By Richard Person
 
 
O.B. Hardison, 61, a Georgetown University literature professor who
served as head of the Folger Shakespeare Library from 1969 to 1983,
died of cancer Aug. 5 at Georgetown University Hospital.  He lived in
Washington.
 
Dr. Hardison was a native of San Diego.  He received bachelor's and
master's degrees from the University of North Carolina and a doctorate
from the University of Wisconsin.
 
He taught English literature at the University of North Carolina for
12 years before coming to Washington as Folger Library director in
1969.  He retired from the Folger in 1983, and the next year he joined
the faculty at Georgetown.  He was a professor of English at the time
of his death.
 
He was the author of books on criticism, theater, English literature,
poetry, the medieval world, the Renaissance and the modern
relationship of culture to technology.  He also contributed articles
to journals such as Renaissance Quarterly, the Sewanee and Georgia
reviews, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times and The
Washington Post's Book World section.
 
The Folger Library, an internationally known center of Shakespearean
research, is administered by Amherst College.  When Dr. Hardison took
over its direction in 1961, it was primarily for scholars and known
for its book collection.
 
Dr. Hardison oversaw enormous expansion of its resources and opened
the Library's doors to the general public.  He helped establish the
Folger Theater Group as a leading area cultural resource and
established a popular series of poetry readings.  He also introduced
the Folger Consort, a group of musicians specializing in medieval and
Renaissance offerings.
 
He was instrumental in the formation of the Folger Institute of
Renaissance and 18th Century Studies, oversaw the establishment of a
docent program and saw the Shakespeare Quarterly make the Library its
home.
 
Over the years, he became as adept at fund-raising as he was in his
more scholarly pursuits.  The library's annual income increased from
about $20,000 to more than $1 million annually.  He left the
institution with an endowment of more than $50 million.  He also
directed the campaign that raised $8.5 million for an expansion and
physical plant improvement of the library.
 
He told a Post reporter, after leaving the Folger, that his two
proudest achievements were acquiring a first edition (1684) of Isaac
Newton's "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" and getting
the theater fireproofed.
 
Before coming to Washington, Dr. Hardison had an enviable reputation
as a writer and teacher.  An authority on medieval and Renaissance
history and literature, he was an expert on the life, time and work of
John Milton and had been hailed by Time magazine as one of the
country's outstanding college instructors.
 
His first book, a volume of poetry entitled "Lyrics and Elegies," was
published in 1958.  His most recent book, published in 1989, was
"Disappearing Through the Skylight -- Culture and Technology in the
Twentieth Century."  A combination of philosophy, literature, history
and science, it was one in a series of books he was writing on man's
history and evolution.  Another in the series was "Entering the Maze:
Identity and Change in Modern Culture," published by Oxford University
Press in 1981.
 
Other books included "Christian Rite and Christian Drama," published
by Johns Hopkins University Press, "Praise and Eloquence in
Renaissance Literary Theory" and "Praise in Renaissance Literature,"
which was an expansion of his doctoral dissertation.  He also had been
an associate editor of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and
Poetics.
 
Dr. Hardison was a past president of the Renaissance Society of
America, the Shakespeare Association of America, and the Washington
English-Speaking Union.  He was a former chairman of the National
Humanities Alliance.  He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and had been a
Fulbright and Guggenheim fellow and a recipient of awards from the
British and Italian governments.
 

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