For Immediate Release—Monday, Sept. 11, 2006
Mary E. McCrank
Media Relations Officer
Third Annual Walter Harding Lecture at SUNY Geneseo
to Highlight Walt Whitman Expert
GENESEO, N.Y.—An expert on Walt Whitman will deliver the third annual Walter Harding Lecture at the State University of New York at Geneseo on Sept. 21.
Ed Folsom, the Roy J. Carver Professor at The University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, will deliver his talk, titled "Walt Whitman's 1855 Leaves of Grass: Think Again." The talk is free and open to the public and will be held at 4 p.m. in Room 204 in Newton Hall.
Folsom, who taught at SUNY Geneseo from 1975-76, also serves as co-director of the Walt Whitman Archive, an online electronic research and teaching tool that sets out to make Whitman's vast work, for the first time, easily and conveniently accessible to scholars, students and general readers.
Folsom received his bachelor's degree in English from Ohio Wesleyan University and his master's and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester. He taught at Lancaster (Ohio) High School and the Eastman School of Music before serving as a visiting assistant professor at Geneseo. He went to The University of Iowa in 1976, and in 1996 served as a Fulbright Professor at the University of Dortmund in Germany.
Folsom has received numerous awards and honors throughout his prestigious career. He has served as editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review since 1983 and directed "Walt Whitman: The Centennial Project." He is the editor and author of several books on Whitman. In 2005, Folsom co-authored, along with his fellow project co-director Kenneth M. Price, the book "Re-Scripting Walt Whitman: An Introduction to His Life and Work." Folsom also is the editor of Walt Whitman: The Centennial Essays (1994), co-editor of Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song (1981, revised 1997), co-editor of Walt Whitman and the World (1996), and author of Walt Whitman's Native Representations (1994).
The talk will bring Folsom back to Geneseo to discuss one of the most important writers in American history, said Richard Finkelstein, professor and chair of the English department.
"He is sort of seen as the founder, as somebody who created the distinctive American poetic voice. Whitman is to American poetry what Thoreau is to American prose."
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.
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 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. Harding 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 extensive research, writing and teaching earned him international recognition and respect as an expert on Thoreau. Author of more than 25 books and numerous articles on the life and work of Thoreau, Harding 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. Born in Bridgewater, Mass., in 1917, Harding received his B.S. from Bridgewater State College in 1939, M.A. from the University of North Carolina in 1947 and a Ph.D. from Rutgers in 1950.
Harding's biography on Thoreau is considered the definitive account of his life and was reprinted in 1992. Harding's work is still "rich and vital" to the classroom today, said Finkelstein.
Harding's wife, Marjorie Brook Harding, created an endowment to make the lecture series possible. 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 about Thoreau and transcendentalism.