Timo Gilmore, professor emeritus of English, dies at 72

Photo/Mike Lovett

Michael T. Gilmore

Michael T. Gilmore, professor emeritus of English, died on March 3, 2014, after a brief, serious illness. He was 72.

Known affectionately as Timo, he came to Brandeis in 1974 after earning his PhD at Harvard University. He helped Brandeis’ English department achieve a national reputation in the study of American literature, particularly in 19th-century literature and culture.

Timo wrote eight books and dozens of articles during his years at Brandeis, beginning with “The Middle Way: Puritanism and Ideology in American Literature” (1977). His scholarship paid particular attention to the relationship between literature and politics, and he brought to his literary study the skills and learning of a historian and the deep political commitments that marked his sensibility. His second book, “American Literature and the Marketplace” (1985), and the collection “Rethinking Class: Literary Studies and Social Formations”(1994), edited with Wai Chee Dimock, showed the tangled relationships among American authors, the literary marketplace and world economics, and the engagement of American authors with issues of class difference and class struggle.

Two later works, “Differences in the Dark: American Movies and English Theater” (1998) and “Surface and Depth: The Quest for Legibility in American Culture” (2003), explored how American politics and American economic history gave a distinctive cast to American works across genres and periods. His last book, “The War on Words: Slavery, Race and Free Speech in American Literature” (2010), discussed how the struggle over slavery and race from the American Renaissance through the end of the 19th century was also a struggle over freedom of expression, with the urgent call for racial justice always contending with forces that would repress or divert criticism.

At the time of his death, Timo was hard at work on a study of literary radicalism in his beloved Cambridge.

Timo served as chair of the English department several times. His lecture survey on 19th-century American literature was a “must-take” course among undergraduates, and his seminars gave the English graduate program its unique flavor. He was a generous, patient and demanding graduate adviser who helped many doctoral students find their way through their dissertation. His students are teaching American literature — in ways shaped by his influence — at colleges and universities around the world.

Most of all, he was a wonderful colleague and a devoted friend to all of us in the English department.

A memorial service for Timo will be held on Saturday, April 12, at 11 a.m. in the large chapel at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

Categories: General, Humanities and Social Sciences

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