Professor Emory Holloway

Oracle 1921 Adelphi College yearbook dedicated to Prof. Holloway

Biographical Sketch

Rufus Emory Holloway was born on the 16th of March 1885 in Marshall, Missouri. He received his A.B. from Hendrix College in 1906 and his M.A. from the University of Texas in 1912. While studying at Columbia University in 1913-1914 his interest in Whitman was encouraged by John Erskine, for whom he wrote the Whitman essay for The Cambridge History of American Literature (1917-1921). Holloway became an instructor at Adelphi in 1914 and assistant professor in 1916. During World War I he was a transportation secretary with the American Expeditionary Force in France and taught at the A.E.F. University at Beaune for one year. Returning to Adelphi, he became professor of English in 1919 and remained there until 1937.

Holloway's reputation was established with the appearance of The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman (1921). His work on the volume had taken seven years and resulted in a comprehensive body of resource materials. Holloway's work brought a much clearer understanding of Whitman's private thought and personal relationships; at the same time, it revealed much about Whitman's creative process.

Holloway's biography of Whitman was intended for a popular audience. Thus, the biography omitted the detailed footnotes and references Holloway had supplied in the collection. In Whitman: An Interpretation in Narrative (1926), which begins with Whitman already in his creative period, Holloway integrates modern narrative techniques with Whitman's letters and other writings. The result is a tapestry of presentation that goes beyond chronological method. It was the first biography of a major literary figure to win a Pulitzer Prize. The initial critical response to the publication recognized the extent to which it went beyond the mere chronicling of a life.

Holloway was aware that his narrative method was relatively new to biographical scholarship, particularly in America. He seems to have been influenced by recent developments in fiction, and also, perhaps, by the montage techniques of the cinema, then recently developed by D. W. Griffith and others. As he says in Whitman as a Subject for Biography (1974), "My aim was to present an interpretation through a method primarily narrative, yet relying heavily on Whitman's self-revelations."

In 1937 Holloway became one of the original faculty of Queens College (now Queens College of the City University of New York) as an associate professor of American literature and chair of the English department. In 1954 he became professor emeritus.

Holloway's Free and Lonesome Heart (1960) is a reply to critics who had charged him with ignoring evidence of Whitman's sexual orientation and behavior. He presents the controversy surrounding Whitman's "simple homosexual" disposition in the context of the disputed interpretation of "Once I Passed through a Populous City." He develops an extensive apologetic on Whitman's use of paradox and on the necessity for a poet to embody both male and female natures--"the key word in the comprehension of Whitman is 'balance.' "

Holloway's last biographical work, "Portrait of a Poet: The Life of Walt Whitman," completed in 1962, was considered too lengthy for publication. It repeats much of the argument of Free and Lonesome Heart and includes detailed appendices that support Holloway's positions. Holloway died on 30 July 1977.

Excerpted from the biographical essay by William Over, St. John's University.

Source Database: Dictionary of Literary Biography in Gale Literature Resource Center

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