GENESEO, N.Y. -- Caleb Crain, a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, will address "Melville's Secrets" at the seventh annual Harding Lecture Sept. 23 at the State University of New York at Geneseo. The lecture begins at 4 p.m. in the college's MacVittie College Union ballroom and is free and open to the public.
Crain is the author of the book American Sympathy: Men, Friendship and Literature in the New Nation, and of numerous articles about American literature and culture in newspapers, magazines and scholarly journals. His essays, reviews and fiction have appeared in such venues as The New Yorker, The Nation, The New York Times Magazine and The New York Review of Books. His novella Sweet Grafton was published in the online journal n+1. His blog, Steamboats Are Ruining Everything, won the Cliopatra Award for Best Writer in 2007.
Crain received his doctorate in English from Columbia University. He has worked as senior editor at the magazine Lingua Franca and was a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. He also has taught as an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia.
SUNY Geneseo launched the annual Harding lecture in 2004 in honor of the late Walter Harding, an internationally famous faculty member who was the world's leading scholar on 19th century author Henry David Thoreau. Author of more than 25 books and numerous articles on the life and work of Thoreau, Harding's biography on Thoreau is still considered the definitive account of his life and was reprinted by Princeton University Press in 1992. He was the founding secretary and former president of the Thoreau Society, the oldest and largest international organization devoted to the study of any American author.
Harding, a distinguished professor emeritus of English at SUNY Geneseo, died in 1996 at the age of 78. He joined the faculty at Geneseo in 1956 after teaching at the University of Virginia, Rutgers University and the University of North Carolina. He received his doctorate from Rutgers in 1950. He served as chair of SUNY Geneseo's English department for six years and was designated a University Professor in 1966 and a Distinguished Professor in 1973. He retired in 1982 and a year later became the first faculty member in SUNY to be awarded a SUNY Honorary Doctor of Letters degree.
Harding's wife, Marjorie Brook Harding, created an endowment to make the lecture series possible. She significantly enlarged the endowment last spring, assuring that generations of Geneseo students and faculty will benefit from Walter Harding's tradition of scholarship and learning. In addition, Harding's family donated his extensive collection of more than 15,000 books, pamphlets, articles and other Thoreau memorabilia to his beloved Thoreau Society at Walden Woods in Concord, Mass. The collection includes all Thoreau first editions and first printings. The family generously ensured that SUNY Geneseo's Milne Library was able to make copies of Harding's works. The Walter Harding Collection consists of writings and 19th-century objects associated with Thoreau and transcendentalism.
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