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In Memoriam: Arthur F Kinney (1933-2021)

Arthur F. Kinney, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English, died on Dec. 25, 2021, at the age of 88. Born the son of a steelworker and a school teacher in Cortland, New York, Kinney went on to serve as a faculty member at UMass Amherst for 50 years, retiring in 2016 as the Thomas W. Copeland Professor of Literary History.

Well-known by other scholars around the world, and winner of the Paul Oskar Kristeller Lifetime Achievement Award from the Renaissance Society of America, Kinney published a remarkable number of books and articles on poetry, prose and drama, including work on Shakespeare and Faulkner. He edited plays, anthologies and encyclopedias used by thousands of students and researchers to this day. And among his many other achievements, he was the founding editor of English Literary Renaissance, a scholarly journal that recently celebrated its own 50th anniversary.

In 1998, Kinney founded a research institute dedicated to Renaissance Studies on property donated by the Dakin family. In honor of his leadership, generosity, and commitment to UMass Amherst’s future, that institute was renamed the Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies in 2017. For nearly 25 years, the Kinney Center has served a dedicated community of scholars, students, artists and the general public, and has hosted guests, lecturers and performers from around the world. “Professor Kinney’s remarkable spirit and vision will live on here,” said Marjorie Rubright, director of the Kinney Center. “His dedication to Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies has shaped our community in lasting ways.”

Kinney’s legacy at UMass also includes the bachelor’s degree with individual concentration (BDIC) program, which he co-founded with two other professors in the 1970s. Thousands of students at the UMass Amherst campus have benefited from this program, and it has been replicated nationwide.

In addition to his successes as a scholar and a teacher, Kinney was well-known as a generous, one-of-a-kind figure in Amherst and around the Pioneer Valley. He taught community classes, led various town committees, gave public talks, made radio appearances, put on plays, and each year hosted a Renaissance banquet to fundraise for the Kinney Center.

He was an important figure for many Spenserians, and made a significant contribution to the study of Spenser’s work in all sorts of ways. Not only is his distinguished analysis of intellectual culture in the Renaissance, Humanist Poetics (1985), cited in numerous works on Spenser, but he also contributed to A. C. Hamilton’s Spenser Encyclopedia (1990). Edited collections, either his own (notably The Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1500-1600 (1999)), or in his honour (Renaissance Historicism (1987)), also feature in many books and articles by Spenserians. Most significant, perhaps, was the friendship and sense of community that Arthur generated and which is acknowledged in a vast range of work by Spenser scholars who wanted to thank him personally for his help and example. Acknowledgements of Arthur’s input appear in the works of Mary Ellen Lamb, Jon Quitsland, David Wilson Okamura, Rebecca Helfer, William Oram, Donald Stump and Bart Van Es, among many others.

Donations in his honor can be made to the Kinney Center.



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Cite as:

"In Memoriam: Arthur F Kinney (1933-2021)," Spenser Review 52.1.5 (Winter 2022). Accessed April 17th, 2024.
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