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Hugh Kenner

From Academic Kids

Hugh Kenner (1923 - 2003), North American literary scholar, critic, & professor.

Kenner was born in Peterborough, Ontario on January 7th 1923; his father taught classics. Kenner attributed his interest in literature to his poor hearing, caused by a bout of influenza during his childhood.

Attending the University of Toronto, Kenner studied under Marshall McLuhan, who wrote the introduction to Kenner's first book Paradox in Chesterton. Kenner's second book, The Poetry of Ezra Pound (1951) was dedicated to McLuhan, who had introduced Kenner to Pound on June 4th 1948, during Pound's incarceration at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington, D.C., whither Kenner & McLuhan had driven as a detour from their trip from Toronto to New Haven. (Pound, who became a friend of Kenner's, had suggested the book be titled The Rose in the Steel Dust.) Kenner recently said of McLuhan, "I had the advantage of being exposed to Marshall when he was at his most creative, and then of getting to the far end of the continent shortly afterward, when he couldn't get me on the phone all the time. He could be awfully controlling."

In 1950, Kenner earned a Ph.D. from Yale University, with a dissertation on James Joyce, James Joyce: Critique in Progress, for Cleanth Brooks. This became Dublin's Joyce in 1956.

His first teaching post was at the University of California, Santa Barbara; he then taught at Johns Hopkins University (from 1973 to 1990) and the University of Georgia (from 1990 to 1999).

Kenner was married twice: his first wife, Mary Waite, died in 1964; the couple had three daughters and two sons. His second wife, whom he married in 1965, was Mary-Anne Bittner; they had a son and a daughter. Hugh Kenner died on November 24th 2003.


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