Robert B. Heilman and Eric Voegelin: A Friendship in Letters, 1944-1984

Robert B. Heilman and Eric Voegelin: A Friendship in Letters, 1944-1984

Robert B. Heilman and Eric Voegelin: A Friendship in Letters, 1944-1984

Robert B. Heilman and Eric Voegelin: A Friendship in Letters, 1944-1984

Synopsis

This collection of letters exchanged between Robert B. Heilman and Eric Voegelin records a friendship that lasted more than forty years. These scholars, both giants in their own fields, shared news of family and events, academic gossip, personal and professional vicissitudes, academic successes, and, most important, ideas. Heilman and Voegelin first became acquainted around 1942, when Voegelin delivered a guest lecture for the political science department at Louisiana State University. At that time, Heilman was teaching in the English department at LSU along with Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks. What started as simple exchanges soon grew into full-fledged correspondence--beginning with an eight-page letter by Voegelin commenting on Heilman's manuscript on Shakespeare's King Lear. Their correspondence lasted until four months before Voegelin's death in 1985. These letters represent Voegelin's most prolonged correspondence conducted in English with an American and provide readers with an insight into Voegelin as a literary critic. While Voegelin's analysis of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw is well known, these letters reveal the source and genesis of the essay. Additional comments by Voegelin on Mann, Eliot, Shakespeare, Homer, Orwell, Flaubert, and other significant writers are uncovered throughout his exchanges with Heilman. Readers will appreciate Heilman's effort to clarify for himself the exact meaning of Voegelin's ideas. Heilman's questions are often questions that readers of Voegelin continue to ask themselves. In the letters, Heilman reveals himself to have a canny perception of the philosophical matters under discussion between the two. Heilman's letters exhibit theelegant writing style for which he was renowned. They differ from his correspondence with other academics in that his exchanges with Voegelin were sustained over a longer period of time and cover a broader array of topics. Th
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