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Popular Topics in Social Sciences
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In Memoriam
In Memoriam: Robert K. Martin (1941-2012)
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 05/02/12
Last updated on: 05/02/12
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Robert K. Martin.

Pioneering gay studies scholar Robert K. Martin died in Montréal on February 20, 2012 of complications arising from Parkinson's disease. Beginning with the groundbreaking book The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry (1979), Martin's work helped establish gay and lesbian lesbian literary studies as respectable specialties within North American universities.

After receiving his Ph.D. from Brown University in 1967, Martin moved to Montréal, where he taught at Concordia University until he was recruited by the Université de Montréal in the early 1990s.

As Judith Herz, his friend and former colleague, explains, "From then to the early 2000s, he brought about an extraordinary transformation in the Département d'études anglaises. Working closely with his colleagues, he made it possible for students, undergraduate and graduate, to take courses in fields such as Women's Literature, African-American Literature and Postcolonial Literature. He developed an impressive graduate program, fostered the department's research profile, and cultivated its implication in a French institution."

Martin's books included Hero, Captain, and Stranger: Male Friendship, Social Critique, and Literary Form in the Sea Novels of Herman Melville (1986) and a revised and expanded edition of The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry.

In addition, Martin edited The Continuing Presence of Walt Whitman: The Life after the Life (1992). With Judith Scherer Herz, he edited E. M. Forster: Centenary Revaluations (1982). With George Piggford, he edited Queer Forster (1997). With Eric Savoy, he edited American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative (1998). With Leland Person, he edited Roman Holidays: American Writers and Artists in Nineteenth-Century Italy (2002).

Martin also wrote more than 50 essays, many of them seminal, such as his brilliant analysis of "Edward Carpenter and the Double Structure of Maurice."

As Herz observes, Martin's work was "audacious and courageous" and very influential. "Robert started something that has continued on in the work of countless scholars."

On April 16, 2012, friends and colleagues and former students gathered "to remember, mourn, and celebrate this extraordinary and beloved man, a teacher and a scholar, a person who truly knew how to live in the world." As Herz describes the gathering, "There were reminiscences, testimonials, readings, a great sadness in all our hearts, and yet at the end of the day, a feeling of satisfaction, so complete was our appreciation, so present was he in our minds."

A brilliant teacher, scholar, and friend, Robert Martin was also, as Herz concludes, "a wonderful human being whom we miss so much."

For glbtq.com, Martin contributed the survey of Nineteenth-Century American Literature and the entries on Herman Melville and Walt Whitman.

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