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In Memoriam: Professor Arden Reed

Arden Reed

Arden Reed, noted scholar, lecturer and Arthur M. Doyle and Fanny M. Doyle Professor of English at Pomona College, passed away on Dec. 21, 2017, at the age of 70 from an aggressive form of cancer.

Born in 1947 in Denver, Colo., Reed was a boundary-crossing scholar—an expert on 19th-century English and French literature and visual art, including contemporary visual culture. His research covered the spectrum of English Romantic literature; 19th-century French painting and literature; modernism across the arts; relationships between painting and literature, image and text; contemporary art; and tableaux vivants. His most recent and seminal work, Slow Art: The Experience of Looking, Sacred Images to James Turrell, was published this past summer by the University of California Press.

Covering works from the Middle Ages to the present, Slow Art calls on everyday museum visitors to contemplate artwork and trust that their novice observations are just as meaningful as those of art experts. In its review, The Wall Street Journal called Reed “an enormously erudite writer,” and his book, “a lively ramble through high and low culture.”

Kurt Andersen, novelist and host of NPR’s Studio 360, reflected that “Arden Reed refused to stay in his lane: as a scholar and a human being, his extreme, gleeful curiosity about all kinds of ideas and art and people, and the connections among them, was positively infectious, and an inspiration to me.”

His past work includes Manet: Art, Words, Music (2014), Manet, Flaubert, and the Emergence of Modernism: Blurring Genre Boundaries (2003), Constance De Jong: Metal (2003) and Romantic Weather: The Climates of Coleridge and Baudelaire (1984). He was the editor of Romanticism and Language: A Collection of Critical Essays (1984) and had numerous articles published in Art in America. In 1983, he was awarded a First Book Prize from Brown University Press for Romantic Weather: The Climates of Coleridge and Baudelaire.

In 2006, Reed received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, which he used to pursue research that helped raise the deep questions that would animate Slow Art.

In addition to the Guggenheim Fellowship, Reed’s distinguished awards and honors include a Bellagio Study Center Residency in 2007 by the Rockefeller Foundation; a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome in 2007; a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship at the Centro Studi Ligure per le Arti et le Lettere in 2007; and a fellowship at the Clark Art Institute in 2006.

Under the auspices of The Albert & Elaine Borchard Foundation, he was a scholar in residence at Château de la Bretesche in Missillac, France, from 1990 to 1991, and under the aegis of The Camargo Foundation, he served as a research fellow in Cassis, France, from 1994 to 1995. Through an award from the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, he was a fellow at the University of Edinburgh, among other honors.

Reed came to Pomona as an assistant professor in 1979 and was named the Arthur M. Dole and Fanny M. Dole Professor in English in 2004. Before Pomona, he was an assistant professor at Wayne State University and a lecturer at The Johns Hopkins University.

Reed earned his bachelor of arts from Wesleyan University, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in comparative literature from The Johns Hopkins University.

He is survived by his partner of 35 years, Drury Sherrod of Pasadena and Santa Fe; his beloved son, Jonathan Reed and husband, Jeffrey Dodd, of New York; his former wife, Anita Comtois of New York; as well as a brother, Edward Reed of Denver; a sister, Susan Reed of Sedona; an uncle, Stanley Ely of New York; and cousins Elissa Ely of Boston and Marcia Ely of New York.

Reed’s family has requested that those who wish to honor his memory do so through the Arden Reed Summer Undergraduate Endowed Research Fund at Pomona, which will support the student research he found so essential to a liberal arts education.