In Memoriam P.M. Mitchell, 1916-1999

By Kalinke, Marianne | Scandinavian Studies, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

In Memoriam P.M. Mitchell, 1916-1999


Kalinke, Marianne, Scandinavian Studies


P. M. Mitchell passed away in his home in Ithaca, NY, on March 27, 1999. He was known as an inveterate Danophile and a lover of all things Scandinavian. He considered Bord 61 in the old Reading Room of the Royal Library in Copenhagen his home-away-from-home. Home for him was the library, any library, but especially the libraries of the University of Illinois, the University of Gottingen, and the Fiske Icelandic Collection at Cornell University. He had strong likes and dislikes: Bach and Scarlatti were in, nineteenth- and twentieth-century music were out, except for Niels Gade and Carl Nielsen. Chocolate, dark bitter-sweet chocolate, which he brought back from Germany each year, was not to be consumed before noon, except on Sundays. Tea was the only acceptable beverage, cooled off with a silver spoon without which PMM, as he was known to his friends, was never without. He made his presence known at some distance as he whistled classical music on his way from home to campus, from the classroom to the library or the English building, where he served tea punctually at 10 AM and 4 PM in the offices of the Journal of English and Germanic Philology, whose managing editor he was from 1958 until his retirement from the University of Illinois.

P. M. Mitchell was born on Sept. 23, 1916, in Syracuse, NY. He received the BA degree from Cornell University in 1938 and the Ph.D from the University of Illinois in 1942. During the years 1942-45, he served in the Signal Intelligence Service of the U.S. Army. Following his military service he taught at Cornell University in 1945-46 and Harvard University 1946-49. In 1950 he went to the University of Kansas as associate professor of German and eight years later, in 1958, the faculty of the University of Illinois. At the latter institution, where he taught until his retirement in 1986, he introduced a Scandinavian program. In addition to German literature, he taught Danish language and literature. Upon his retirement from the University of Illinois in 1986, he accepted the position of Curator of the Fiske Icelandic Collection at Cornell University, a post he held until 1993. Until 1997, he was also the editor of the monograph series "Islandica," published by Cornell University Press.

P. M. Mitchell is known for his many publications chiefly on eighteenth-century German literature and Danish literature. He published over thirty books--these include bibliographies, translations, editions, and monographs--and some sixty articles or chapters in books, in Danish, English, and German. His History of Danish Literature, which appeared both in Denmark (1957) and the U.S. (1958, 2nd rev. ed. 1971) remained for four decades the standard literary history in English. Together with F. J. Billeskov Jansen, he edited the bilingual Anthology of Danish Literature (1971, paperback 1972). He translated Selected Essays of Ludvig Holberg (1955), Vilhelm Gronbech's Religious Currents in the Nineteenth Century (together with W. …

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