Monday, November 09, 2009

On curiosity

I just learned, in an email from my department chair, of the death of a much-valued colleague, Karl Kroeber. Karl has been seriously ill for some time, and I heard at the end of last week that he was in hospice care at his home, but the news still comes as a blow.

If you have a few minutes, go and read this wonderful interview that Adam Katz and Josh Schwartz did with Karl for Columbia's Bwog a few years ago - it really gives the flavor of his interests and character and his wonderful restless roving intelligence...

Karl made a very lovely gesture upon his retirement last spring. It is common in such circumstances for the university to host a lavish but exclusive party, usually for an elect group of senior colleagues. But Karl observed that the people he'd learned the most from at Columbia were in fact his junior colleagues, that reading their work for various reviews (tenure and otherwise) was what kept him abreast of interesting new developments in various fields and that really he would much prefer to take his younger colleagues out for a really lavish lunch at Terrace in the Sky! And that was what happened - it was a true valediction.


  1. I had Professor Kroeber for Children's Literature back in 2006. Though we didn't always agree, he taught me a lot about literature that I still hold dear today. I may not have convinced him that comic books are legitimate, but at least we had fun arguing over the subject. No one ever gave me as many comments on a final paper during my whole time at CU. Much appreciated.

    i'll miss him :* [

    -Jeff Petriello

  2. When I'm home for Thanksgiving, I plan to dig out my Children's Literature things and read them again. That class was a joy, especially since Professor Kroeber liked to challenge us. Occasionally there'd be a lull in the debate, and we'd realize that we were pounding on desks, arguing passionately about Winnie The Pooh. Ridiculous, no? No. That was Prof. Kroeber's point. Children's literature is part of what made us who we are (especially us bookish geeks!) and it deserves our thorough examination. Professor Kroeber will certainly be missed.