The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1372 Wednesday, 24 August 2005
Date: Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Subject: In memoriam: Professor Emeritus Sheldon Paul Zitner
University of Toronto -- News@UofT -- (Aug 22/05)
In memoriam: Professor Emeritus Sheldon Paul Zitner
Professor emeritus Sheldon Paul Zitner of English at Trinity College
complications from intestinal surgery April 26. He was 81 years old.
Professor Emeritus Sheldon Paul Zitner, 1924-2005
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1924, Zitner served in the Pacific during
the Second World War, returning to finish his BA at Brooklyn College,
then taking an MA at New York University and a PhD at Duke University.
He taught for six years at Hampton Institute, a black college in
Virginia, and for 12 years at Grinnell, a liberal arts college in Iowa,
where he became chair of the English department and of the division of
humanities as well as the Carter-Adams Professor of Literature. In 1969
he joined the English department at Trinity College. Early in his
career, in the 1960s, he collaborated on two books that taught the
mysteries of new criticism and wrote a third on literary scholarship.
His own work remained exemplary in both these modes: in addition to
definitive editions of Spenser's Cantos of Mutabilitie, Beaumont's The
Knight of the Burning Pestle and Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing,
he published the standard book-length commentary on All's Well That Ends
Well and important critical articles on Hamlet, Richard II and King
Lear, among other texts. Whatever he published was, in the words of one
particular review, "strikingly original and subtle." While his primary
research centred on Shakespeare and Renaissance drama, he pursued a
strong interest in critical theory - Aristotle as well as 20th-century
practitioners - and also in North American, British and European
contemporary poetry. He had a profound knowledge of Western rt history
and Japanese prints and found much joy in the pieces he collected over
the years. In recognition of his brilliant teaching Trinity College
awarded him an honorary doctor of sacred letters degree in 2001. "His
classes were intellectually penetrating, remarkable in their breadth and
leavened with unforgettable, often acerbic, wit," said Professor
Emeritus Nancy Lindheim, a long-time friend and colleague. "Many of his
students became lifelong friends. And his friendship brought notable
pleasures: he was an astonishingly gifted conversationalist whose
stories were filled with extraordinary old friends, wicked observations
and the remembered tastes of fine meals. He was on everybody's guest list."
After retiring in 1989, Zitner turned to writing poetry, a passion he
had abandoned after success in placing various poems during the 1950s.
The result was three published books of verse: The Asparagus Feast<
(1999), Before We Had Words (2002) and, posthumously, The Hunt on the
Lagoon (2005). The three titles roughly indicate his strengths and
concerns: sensuous engagement with the world, introspective probing of
complex human bonds and illuminations offered to us by art (the last is
a painting by Carpaccio). He also translated into verse a volume of
modern Chinese poetry assembled by a friend, now under consideration by
a university press.
"Even at 'fourscore and upward,'" Lindheim said, "his life was cut off
A memorial will be held Sept. 17 at Seeley Hall, Trinity College, at 3
p.m. Colleagues, friends and students are invited to attend.
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