Tony Tanner

Category: All Harkness Stories /  Higher Education /  Humanities /  Up to 1959 / 

Tony Tanner (CFF 1958–60) (d 1998) had a career as an eminent scholar of American literature which was born during his time as a Harkness fellow. Having studied English at Jesus College Cambridge, in 1958 he won a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship to Berkeley, California where he first encountered post-war American literature and culture. In 1960, he returned with a passion for American Literature, unusual in the UK at the time, especially in academia. His doctoral dissertation on wonder and naiveté in American literature, later published as a book, became the first on an American subject to be accepted by the Cambridge English faculty. He was appointed a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, where he taught and studied for 38 years until his untimely death from cancer in 1998. Professor Tanner's teachings on the topic helped persuade Cambridge university to offer a master's degree in American literature, and in 1989, he was appointed to its first chair in American literature. He wrote a comprehensive study of contemporary American fiction from the period 1950-1970 in City of Words, published in 1971. Tanner briefly took up a position at Johns Hopkins University, but returned to Kings, preferring life at Cambridge. Tanner did not abandon UK and European literature, publishing about the work of literary figures such as Goethe, Flaubert, Rousseau, Henry James, Jane Austen, Byron, Thomas Mann, John Ruskin and Marcel Proust. His final work was to write prefaces to each of Shakespeare’s plays for the new Everyman library. (Sources)