Farewell Prof. Herbert Lindenberger (1929-2018), a mentor of “animation and intensity”


He gave “electrifying” lectures.

Herbert Lindenberger  died on October 1 at 89, of multiple myeloma. He was active till a few weeks ago, visiting museums and attending operas.

I met the Stanford professor of English and comparative literature … well, “met” Herbert Lindenberger.. eighteen years ago when I contacted him for a profile of Dana Gioia (you can read it here). He commented on his former student. We’ve spoken by phone more recently, and was a warm and lively presence, but we never got the face-to-face we’d discussed.

He was born in Los Angeles on April 4, 1929. He was a recipient Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Vienna (1952-53), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1968-69), two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships (1975-76, 1982-83), a  Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship (1982-83), a resident fellow at the Rockefeller Study Center in Bellagio, Italy (1996), named a “Distinguished Alumnus in the Humanities” at the University of Washington (2006), and a fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (elected 2008).

His most recent books are Aesthetics of Discomfort: Conversations on Disquieting Artwith Frederick Luis Aldama (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016) and One Family’s Shoah: Victimization, Resistance, Survival in Nazi Europe (New York and London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Previous books include:  On Wordsworth’s ‘Prelude’ (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963; Princeton paperback edition, 1966); Georg Büchner, in Crosscurrents/Modern Critiques series (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1964); Georg Trakl, in Twayne World Authors Series (New York: Twayne [now G.K. Hall], 1971); Historical Drama: The Relation of Literature and Reality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, l975; Phoenix paperback edition, 1978); Saul’s Fall: A Critical Fiction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979); Opera: The Extravagant Art (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984; Cornell paperback edition, 1986); The History in Literature: On Value, Genre, Institutions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990); Opera in History: From Monteverdi to Cage (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998); Dogstory: A Memoir in HypertextStanford University, April, 1999; Situating Opera: Period, Genre, Reception (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Years ago he commented on Dana. Now it’s time for his former student to comment on him. I sent the news to Dana half an hour ago, and got this reply: “Terrible news. I knew Herbie for nearly half a century. He was a wonderful man.” Dana has known him for half-a-century.

“Herbie Lindenberger was my mentor at Stanford, and we became lifelong friends.  His famous course on Modernism was an intellectual milestone in my life. He was one of the finest teachers I’ve ever known. He brought a level of animation and intensity to the classroom that electrified his students. What good fortune to have known him as a teacher and friend.”

His son Michael Lindenberger posted this: “We recently went through a document he had given us regarding action items to take upon his death. (He was unbelievably organized and prepared for virtually any eventuality.) Regarding communicating with the Stanford English department, where he was a professor for many years, he had written to us, ‘Tell them that when the chair announces my death not to say “passed away” as the last chair did, but simply to use the word “died” and say that if this order is not followed I shall place a hex on the chair from wherever I am.’ That was our dad – candid and humorous even about death. And, as is evidenced by people who have reached out to us over the past 48 hours, it’s clear that his enthusiasm, warmth, humor, and intense intellectual energy were truly infectious. Not a moment of his 89 years was wasted.”

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