Professor Werner Sollors Celebrated In “Keywords” - 11. 6. 14

Around 120 guests gathered at the Barker Center Saturday to celebrate the retirement of English and African and African American Studies Professor Werner Sollors in “Keywords in American Literary Studies,” which featured four panel discussions and an evening reception.

“I feel like I owe my entire life to him,” said Brian Hochman, a panelist in the event and English professor at Georgetown University. “He’s an extraordinary mentor, teacher, and scholar.” Coming to this event was “like a family reunion,” he added.

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Over 120 guests joined in celebration of Professor Werner Sollors. (Photo: Alexandra Koktsidis)

Like Hochman, many panelists were former students of Sollors, and traveled from across the country and overseas to make it. They not only shared academic papers, but also personal moments, reflections, and what they learned from Sollors as a teacher.

“There was almost an Oprah-like quality to Werner’s class: everybody gets a dissertation!” said Hua Hsu, Professor of English at Vassar College, in his speech, which garnered laughs.

“All of them showed a lot of appreciation for Werner as their friend and teacher,” said Joseph Harris, former Harvard English professor and longtime friend of Professor Sollors.

“I sat next to Werner, I saw him take notes, I saw him laugh,” said Glenda Carpio, Professor of English and African and African American Studies at Harvard. Sollors served as her mentor, and also taught a class with her. “We are carrying on [his] legacy with our students,” she said.

Jessica Dorman, a former student of Sollors and 1996 Harvard graduate traveled from New Orleans for the event. “I think this brings to life what scholarship is at its best,” she said.

Sollors holds a Ph.D. from the Free University of Berlin, where he graduated in 1975. He has been a member of the faculty of Harvard since 1983. His latest book, “The Temptation of Despair,” explores post-WWII German society.

English and African and African American Studies Professor Jamaica Kincaid read an excerpt from the book, and in her closing remarks, shared a quote from her editor to sum up the evening: “Love has been the controlling emotion – love.”

Event Photos (click here for more):

Photos courtesy of Harvard Crimson photographer Christine Mansour