Tony Tanner (scholar)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Paul Antony Tanner (18 March 1935 – 5 December 1998), known as Tony Tanner, was a British literary critic of the mid-20th century, and a pioneering figure in the study of American literature. He was a fellow of King's College, Cambridge where he taught and studied for 38 years, from 1960 until his death in 1998.

Early life

Paul Antony Tanner was brought up in South London, and grew up during the Second World War and its aftermath. His father was a civil servant and his mother had trained as a teacher. He attended Raynes Park County Grammar School and, after National Service, matriculated at Jesus College, Cambridge where he read English. His teachers included two great Shakespearean scholars, A. P. Rossiter and Philip Brockbank, both of whom were to be lasting influences on Tanner.

In 1958 he won a Harkness Fellowship to Berkeley, California where he first encountered post-war American literature and culture.

Later life and career

In 1960 Tanner took up a fellowship at King's College, Cambridge to begin a doctoral study of the Transcendentalists at a time when American literature was not taught at English universities, and its study was considered radical and novel. Tanner's thesis was published in 1965 as the book Reign of Wonder, and, on the strength of its merits, he was appointed to a post in the English faculty. From then on, Tanner took an active role in promoting the inclusion of American literature in the English syllabus, lecturing, examining and advising widely on his chosen field.

He went on to make 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, after a severe bout of depression, reapplied to his former position at Cambridge.

His next work, Adultery and the Novel (1979), attempted to reconcile close readings of Goethe, Flaubert and Rousseau with a more contemporary theoretical approach. The depression that had first afflicted Tanner in Baltimore resurfaced, coupled with damaging drinking problems. However, Tanner was able to make a recovery after a period of psychoanalysis and the support of his wife Nadia Fusini, and went on to return to the canonical writers Henry James and Jane Austen, on whom he published in 1985 and 1986 respectively.

Tanner's last book, Venice Desired, was an exploration of portrayals of Venice through the eyes of literary figures such as 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, which he completed before succumbing to the illness that eventually caused his death in 1998.

A collection of twelve essays on writers including Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Don Delillo, and Thomas Pynchon entitled The American Mystery was published posthumously in 2000.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Tony Tanner (scholar)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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