Honorary Member Award
SAMLA established the SAMLA Honorary Member Award as a way to recognize individuals for significant scholarly work and professional contribution in their respective fields of study. The Honorary Members Committee receives the nominations and makes recommendations to the SAMLA Executive Committee. The selection is affirmed by the membership during the annual business meeting.
The nomination period for the 2017 Honorary Member Award has closed. An award announcement will be made on May 1.
2016 Honorary Member: Weldon Thornton
A native of southern Georgia who took a BA in chemistry from Mercer University (1955) and an MA in English from Mercer (1957), Weldon Thornton came to UNC-Chapel Hill in 1961 after earning his Ph.D. in English at the University of Texas in Austin. He taught there full-time for 44 years, retiring as the William and Jeanne H. Jordan Professor of English in 2005. His service to UNC-Chapel Hill took many forms. He helped revise the undergraduate curriculum in the 1970s and served many positions in the department. He also annually hosted a memorable pig picking, at which some 200 members of the department—graduate students and faculty—gathered. He was a uniter, not a divider, who asked for and got the very highest standards from his students and fellow faculty members. In recognition of his sustained commitment to the humanities at Chapel Hill, Thornton gave the 2003 E. Maynard Adams Lecture in the Humanities, “Are Our Universities Failing Their Intellectual Mission?”
During his career, Thornton established himself as one of the pre-eminent scholars of twentieth-century British and Irish literature in the world, authoring the still-in-print Allusions in Joyce’s Ulysses (UNC Press, 1968, multiple reprintings), J. M. Synge and the Western Mind (Colin Smythe, 1975), D.H. Lawrence: A Study of the Short Fiction (Twayne, 1993), The Anti-Modernism of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Syracuse UP, 1994), and Voices and Values in Ulysses (U of Florida P, 2000). He also edited Approaches to Teaching Joyce’s Ulysses with Robert Newman (U of Delaware P, 1987). Just this list of publications would not justify him as an Honorary Life Member of SAMLA, but understanding their impact in the field goes some way toward doing so. The Allusions book has become such a staple of Joyce scholarship that as I say, it is still in print 48 years later. Surveying the Joyce scholarship over the last nearly 50 years shows how often it is still cited—and not simply to confirm a reading of a particular episode in the novel, but often to justify taking an “allusive” approach to the novel in all its complexity. Long before the rise of cultural studies as a discipline, Thornton’s Allusions book showed the importance of understanding an author as encyclopedic as Joyce in the religious, historical, literary, and cultural contexts of his early 1900s Dublin milieu. Moreover, each of his following works was similarly ground-breaking: his Synge book was the first study of that great but short-lived playwright to take his religious life seriously. There is really Synge scholarship pre- and post-Thornton. Post-Thorntonian Synge scholarship recognizes that even though Synge left his fundamentalist Protestant faith, he nevertheless was often concerned to depict issues of faith in his plays, such as the syncretistic milieu we find in one of his masterpieces, Riders to the Sea (1904). Thornton’s Lawrence book remains one of the only book-length studies of that great modernist author’s short fiction and I have heard many Lawrence scholars praise it at length.
I should add that all of Thornton’s scholarship is inherently teaching-oriented. For instance, when I taught the Baylor short fiction survey a few years ago, I went straight to his Lawrence book and was relieved to find such thoughtful readings that were attentive to the way in which our readings of those stories evolve and change over time. Thornton might not accept the term “reader-response” criticism, but what strikes me about his critical books like his study of Lawrence is their extreme sensitivity, not just to issues of close reading, but also to how those issues redound on us as readers, throwing us back on ourselves and making us question what we really believe about these characters, even about ourselves. Thornton’s most recent two books on Joyce have similarly changed the subfield of Joyce studies. The book on Portrait illustrates comprehensively the imagistic cast of Joyce’s mind (for instance, with the bird motif Stephen tries to break from and then ultimately embraces) and shows how carefully that novel’s structure is designed. Voices and Values in Ulysses, I think, remains ahead of its time but is slowly gaining critical traction in its insistence that that great novel was not simply a polyphony of styles, all of which Joyce privileged equally (as Karen Lawrence would have it in her 1981 study, Joyce’s Odyssey of Style), but that he did indeed write the first six episodes in an “initial style,” after which he wrote the remaining twelve episodes in a variety of styles to parody particular, pernicious worldviews or ideologies, such as writing “Sirens” as a Expressionistic play to critique a Freudian viewpoint. Reorienting Joyce in this context shows him to be truly a modernist, not a postmodernist, as many Joyce critics would now have it. For a number of years, Professor Thornton has been working on a wonderful intellectual history, The Roots of Modernism, a book that would in many ways function as a summa of his career. It will enlighten us about the many underlying philosophical biases we continue to express as Westerners, products of the Enlightenment.
Professor Thornton served on a variety of editorial boards over the years, including the D. H. Lawrence Review, James Joyce Quarterly, and the University of Kentucky’s Irish Literary series. He served as a referee for various scholarly journals, including PMLA, during his career, and was a reader for many university presses. For some years, he also served on the selection committee for the prestigious Richard Ellmann lectures at Emory University.
Professor Thornton is a long-time supporter of SAMLA and has often given papers there over the years, remaining active into his retirement by appearing, for example, on Dr. Joseph Flora’s recent Great Books Panel. In 2013, Professor Flora organized a special panel at SAMLA to recognize Professor Thornton’s work in the field and longtime commitment to SAMLA. We had representatives in English, American, and Irish literature from three professors who worked with him in the 1970s (Panthea Reid Broughton, emerita, LSU), 1980s (John Rickard, Bucknell University), and 1990s (myself). That panel, which was filled with past students of Professor Thornton, exemplified his commitment to multiple generations of students, for, despite all his many outstanding scholarly achievements, he remains the professor most dedicated to his students’ success—whether they went on to graduate school in English literature or not—that I or many others have ever met. Now Professor Emeritus at UNC, Dr. Thornton remains active at the university and in the profession. I give him my highest recommendation for Honorary Life membership in SAMLA.
Richard Rankin Russell
Professor of English
2012 Baylor Centennial Professor
Graduate Program Director
Beall Poetry Festival Director
2015 Honorary Member: H. R. Stoneback
H. R. Stoneback (PhD Vanderbilt 1970) is Distinguished Professor of English of the State University of New York, where he has taught at SUNY-New Paltz since 1969. He has been Visiting Professor at the University of Paris, Senior Fulbright Professor at Peking University (Beijing, China), and Saint-John Perse Fellow of the French-American Foundation in Aix-en-Provence. As author or editor, he has published 35 books, roughly half literary criticism, and half books of his poetry. His much-praised Reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (2007)was placed on the short list of recommended critical studies for the national Agrégation Examination in France.Recent work includes the co-edited Imagism: Essays on Its Initiation, Impact and Influence (2013) and the co-edited Affirming the Gold Thread: Aldington, Hemingway, Pound & Imagism in Torcello and Venice (2014). He has authored more than 200 essays, including major work on William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Robert Penn Warren. Stoneback’s award-winning poetry has been published in scores of journals in the U.S. and abroad and translated into Chinese, French, Irish, Italian, Provençal and other languages.
He has served as an officer of numerous literary and cultural organizations in the U. S. and France. From 2011-2013 he served on the executive board and as Vice-President of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association. He is a founder and Vice-President of the International Aldington Society and a founder and Honorary President of the Elizabeth Madox Roberts Society. In 2014 he was elected to serve (2014-2017) as President of the Hemingway Foundation & Society. Among his numerous honors and awards, he especially cherishes his 2013 gubernatorial commission as a Kentucky Colonel—and wonders what benefits (such as certain legendary products of Kentucky) accompany his
Now in his sixth decade with SAMLA, he has presented dozens of papers at the yearly meetings. In 2008 he was the Annual Critical Plenary Speaker at the convention in Louisville; at the same meeting, an “Honoring H. R. Stoneback” session featured tributes to his work by 17 scholars and writers (later published in Knowledge Carried to the Heart: A Festschrift for H. R. Stoneback, ed. Matthew Nickel, 2010). In recent years, he has been a presenter and performer in most of the SAMLA featured special sessions on “Music and Poetry.” Since the 1970s he has led about 50 of his graduate students to SAMLA, where they have presented more than 100 papers. In sum, Stoneback notes, “My SAMLA connection has been the longest and happiest professional affiliation in a long career.”
Visit our Membership section for a list of previous Honorary Member Award recipients.
Please contact Paul Donnelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404.413.5816 with any questions.