Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and poet Richard Wilbur are among those who will come to the Mount Holyoke campus Friday, November 3, to honor Peter Viereck and his work in a series of panels appreciating his poetry, his scholarship, and his life.
Viereck, professor emeritus of history, passed away May 13, 2006. One of the most influential and remarkable figures in the school's history, he taught at Mount Holyoke for nearly a half century.
The Legacy of Peter Viereck will take place from 1:30 to 6 pm at Hooker Auditorium in the Clapp Laboratory Building. The symposium will be free, open to the public, and accessible to all.
After an introduction by Joseph J. Ellis, Professor of History on the Ford Foundation, three panels will discuss Viereck's prose, poetry, and life. Among the panelists will be the celebrated American poet Richard Wilbur; Dana Gioia, poet and chair of the National Endowment for the Arts; Irving Horowitz, head of Transaction Press, the Rutgers University-based publisher of many of Viereck's books; and influential writer and historian Michael Lind, Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. Leading historian and social critic Arthur Schlesinger Jr. will close the proceedings.
Professor Viereck's family has also invited members of the community and others who knew him to share written memories, c/o the President's Office, Mount Holyoke College, 50 College Street, South Hadley, MA 01075-1496.
Born in New York City in 1916, Viereck is likely the only American scholar who has received Guggenheim Fellowships in both poetry and history. A member of the Mount Holyoke College faculty since 1948, Viereck retired in 1987 but continued through 1997 to teach his survey of Russian history. The recipient of many major awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for his first book of poems, Terror and Decorum: Poems 1940-1948, Viereck is the author of numerous articles, essays, and books of history, cultural and political analysis, and poetry. Among his books are Metapolitics: From the Romantics to Hitler; Conservatism Revisited: The Revolt against Revolt, 1815-1949; and Strict Wildness: Discoveries in Poetry and History.
At Mount Holyoke College, Viereck was an associate professor from 1948 to 1955 and professor of history from 1955 to 1965. He held the Alumnae Foundation Chair of Interpretive Studies from 1965 to 1979, and from 1979 to 1987 was William R. Kenan, Jr., Chair of History. Upon his retirement from Mount Holyoke in 1987, he was lauded for his imagination, grace, discipline, and spirit and for teaching "generations of Mount Holyoke students all that is humane about the humanities." Around campus, Viereck was known during his many years here for his lengthy debates about politics and poetry in academic halls and his daily swim at the College's Kendall Sports and Dance Complex.
Viereck's interest in Soviet rebel writers made him instrumental in bringing Nobel prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky to Mount Holyoke. In 1995 Viereck's work Tide and Continuities opened with a rhymed foreword by Brodsky.
Recently, Viereck was the subject of a lengthy profile titled "The First Conservative: How Peter Viereck Inspired--and Lost--a Movement" in the October 24, 2005 New Yorker magazine. The piece was written by noted author and journalist Tom Reiss.
According to Reiss's article, Viereck was a seminal figure in the birth of American conservatism in the second half of the twentieth century, but he soon moved apart from mainstream conservatism.