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  • Professor Susan Manning 1953–2013
  • Penny Fielding (bio)

The unexpected death of Professor Susan Manning in January 2013 has left a great gap in literary studies and the field of Scottish Literary Studies has lost one of its most brilliant and inspirational thinkers – a great friend to colleagues, students and scholars around the world. Scottish by birth, Susan grew up in Oxfordshire before starting her immensely distinguished academic career at the University of Cambridge. After her PhD, she took up a fellowship at Newnham College, where she wrote her first book, The Puritan–Provincial Vision (Cambridge UP, 1990). This groundbreaking work was the first to allow a full understanding of the relation between Scottish Calvinism and American Puritanism – the start of a research career that never saw any literary or national form in isolation. Susan was to go on to write brilliantly about many Scottish and American texts, to edit key works in both fields, and to become internationally regarded through her work not only in literature but also in history and the study of antiquarianism.

In 1999 Susan moved to Edinburgh to take up the Grierson Chair in the department of English Literature, and, in 2005, became Director of the University’s Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities. The many colleagues, postdoctoral students and visiting fellows who passed through IASH will remember Susan’s great warmth, kindness, genuine interest in all forms of intellectual life and ability to contribute to them in new and dazzling ways. She created an academic community in Edinburgh that, in its commitment to sociability and pioneering intellectual questions, echoed the Scottish Enlightenment that had been one of her most abiding interests. Through her work with the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, Susan extended this community internationally, inspiring the work of colleagues in many countries.

In her second book, Fragments of Union, published by Palgrave in 2002, Susan began to develop her ideas about the complex structures of thought that move between Scotland and America and take the form of discontinuities as well of affinities and contiguities. Using the metaphors/political concepts of confederation and incorporation to trace these relations of fragmentation and correspondence, the book addresses the formation of national memories and [End Page 95] the epistemologies, myths, narratives and philosophies that run through them. It is a far-reaching book that only someone of Susan’s depth of knowledge and fine control of complex ideas could produce.

We are fortunate that before her death, Susan had submitted to Cambridge University Press the typescript of her final book, The Poetics of Character: Transatlantic Encounters 17001900. This hugely ambitious, and equally stimulating work develops Susan’s ideas about how literature performs acts of translation (or, her term, ‘refraction’) that do not assume an original and an adaptation, but put different forms of knowledge into relationship with one another. Moving freely between continents and periods, the book takes in questions of rhetoric, epistemology and value, to show how character is necessary both as a literary and her philosophical idea. The Poetics of Character has recently been the centre-piece of memorial weekends at the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge and will sustain many future years of debate. Susan’s influence will continue to be celebrated at Edinburgh in an Annual Susan Manning Lecture, given in 2014 by Maureen McLane. The Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities has created the Daiches–Manning Memorial Fellowship in eighteenth-century studies. As we remember and celebrate Susan in these ways, her extraordinary intellectual force, her warmth and her friendship will continue to animate and inspire Scottish Studies in their widest contexts. [End Page 96]

Penny Fielding
University of Edinburgh
Penny Fielding

Penny Fielding is Grierson Professor of English at the University of Edinburgh.



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