The trustees and staff of the National Humanities Center mourn the passing of Steven Marcus, one of the Center’s founders, on Wednesday, April 25th. He was 89.
Steven was instrumental in the conception and realization of the Center, and his intellectual leadership and continuous devotion helped nurture and guide the Center for most of the past 40+ years.
After Morton Bloomfield, Gregory Vlastos, and Meyer Abrams persuaded the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to explore the feasibility of establishing a freestanding institute for advanced study in the humanities, the Academy invited Marcus to join the discussions, and, in 1974, he assumed the duties of director of planning for the institution. In early 1976, when the National Humanities Center was incorporated, Steven Marcus became chairman of the executive committee of the Center’s board, a role he held until 1980 when he stepped down to enter the fellowship competition for the class of 1980–81. At the end of his two years as a Fellow, Steven returned to Columbia University but revisited the Center in the summers of 1985, 1986, and 1987 to lead summer institutes for high school teachers, the Center’s first forays into professional development for teachers. In 1988, Steven rejoined the Center’s board, serving as chairman of the Scholarly Programs committee and eventually as vice chairman of the Board until 2013 when he was elected a trustee emeritus.
Beyond his importance to the Center, Steven Marcus was an influential literary critic and professor at Columbia University where he taught from 1956 until 1994. His work on nineteenth-century literature and culture, including over 200 publications, continues to shape thinking in the field. Some of his most notable works include Dickens From Pickwick to Dombey; The Other Victorians; Engels, Manchester and the Working Class; Freud and the Culture of Psychoanalysis; and Representations: Essays on Literature and Society.
A memorial service is being planned to take place at Riverside Memorial Chapel. Details to be announced.