Her­bert Lin­den­berger, 1929-2018

THE (Times Higher Education) - - NEWS - [email protected]­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

A highly ver­sa­tile scholar who founded Stan­ford Univer­sity’s depart­ment of com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture has died.

Her­bert Lin­den­berger was born in 1929 and grew up in Seat­tle. He stud­ied lit­er­a­ture at An­ti­och Col­lege (1951) and went on to do a PhD in com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture at the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton, Seat­tle (1955). He had teach­ing po­si­tions at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, River­side and at Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity in St Louis but spent the bulk of his ca­reer at Stan­ford. He ar­rived there in 1969 to set up a grad­u­ate pro­gramme in com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture, which be­came a sep­a­rate depart­ment in 1987, and he even­tu­ally re­tired as emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of English and of com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture in 2001. He was also closely in­volved in the cre­ation of the Stan­ford Hu­man­i­ties Cen­ter, where he served as in­terim di­rec­tor from 1991 to 1992.

In launch­ing Stan­ford’s com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture pro­gramme, Pro­fes­sor Lin­den­berger made it a dis­tinc­tive con­di­tion (which still ap­plies to­day) that stu­dents must know at least three lan­guages be­sides their own. He was him­self an ex­pert in English, French and Ger­man lit­er­a­ture of the 19th and 20th cen­turies, and through­out his ca­reer he pub­lished books in these fields such as On Wordsworth’s “Pre­lude” (1963), Ge­org Büch­ner (1964), His­tor­i­cal Drama: The Re­la­tion of Lit­er­a­ture and Re­al­ity (1978) and The His­tory in Lit­er­a­ture: On Value, Genre, In­sti­tu­tions (1990). He had a pas­sion for opera and an al­most per­fect re­call for all the pro­duc­tions he had ever seen.

Yet even this does not cap­ture the full range of Pro­fes­sor Lin­den­berger’s out­put, which also in­cluded more per­sonal writ­ing such as Dogstory: A Mem­oir in Hyper­text (1999) and, after re­tire­ment, One Fam­ily’s Shoah: Vic­tim­iza­tion, Re­sis­tance, Sur­vival in Nazi Europe (2013). His fi­nal work, co-au­thored with Fred­er­ick Luis Al­dama, was Aes­thet­ics of Dis­com­fort: Con­ver­sa­tions on Dis­qui­et­ing Art (2016).

“He was a mav­er­ick fig­ure in his field be­cause he wrote un­con­ven­tional books that didn’t re­sem­ble each other,” said Roland Greene, the cur­rent di­rec­tor of Stan­ford’s depart­ment of com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture. He also de­scribed Pro­fes­sor Lin­den­berger as “a force of na­ture” who “threw him­self into things and was fear­less about it. He re­ally knew how to make de­ci­sions that could af­fect a lot of peo­ple for the bet­ter in the long run.” Ex­am­ples in­cluded his in­volve­ment in re­form­ing the univer­sity’s pol­icy on fac­ulty hous­ing and ac­tively open­ing up the lit­er­a­ture cur­ricu­lum in the 1980s to a more di­verse range of au­thors.

Pro­fes­sor Lin­den­berger died of mul­ti­ple myeloma can­cer and is sur­vived by his wife Claire, a son, a daugh­ter and two grand­chil­dren.

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