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In Memoriam
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Daniel S. Russell

Posted By Tracy E. Robey, Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Professor Daniel S. Russell, University of Pittsburgh, died on 10 April 2016 in Pittsburgh. His contributions to Renaissance Studies focused on sixteenth-century French literature and emblematics. His publications often treated new approaches to emblem studies that assisted in bringing emblem studies to new audiences and opened up new paths for research, from his “Emblème et Mentalité Symbolique” (1990) to his “Nouvelles directions dans l’étude de l’emblème français” (2007).  He also investigated emblematic features of canonical authors and works, for example, in his “Du Bellay’s Emblematic Vision of Rome” (1972) and “Montaigne’s Emblems” (1984), thereby pioneering new directions in the discipline.  His seminal article “Alciati’s Emblems in France” appeared in Renaissance Quarterly in 1981, demonstrating innovative insights for the study of emblems in a pan-European context and establishing the early French emblematists as crucial to understanding the new genre that swept early modern Europe. His books have an equally broad scope and investigate emblems and devices as they relate to early modern culture as a whole: The Emblem and Device in France (1985) and Emblematic Structures in Renaissance French Culture (1995).  These key works went beyond national traditions and established key concepts in emblem studies, contributing to the discipline’s debates that continue today. Researchers whose work ranges far beyond French Renaissance literature cite his works as touchstones of scholarship. Owing to his international recognition, his colleagues gave him a Festschrift, An Interregnum of the Sign: The Emblematic Age in France. Essays in Honour of Daniel S. Russell, which appeared as a volume in the series Glasgow Emblem Studies in 2001. His scholarship was recognized with significant awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Fulbright.

Beyond his books and many articles, Dan’s research and scholarship helped to shape the entire discipline of emblem studies over the decades by establishing its key journal, hosting an international conference, organizing an exhibition, and teaching courses on emblems, among the many other, often invisible tasks that initiate new directions in research and support new fields of scholarly research. Dan’s efforts did much to elevate the status of emblem studies worldwide: he was co-founder of Emblematica: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Emblem Studies, which he co-edited for many years. A sign of his generosity to the field and to his students, he co-taught with me a semester-long consortium seminar on emblems at the Newberry Library, in 2005, for which he regularly commuted to Chicago. He was a noted and well-liked teacher and gave very generously of his time to younger scholars, read dissertations from around the world, advised and planned the discipline, and saw to good succession plans at various stages of the discipline’s growth, the early part of which he established and oversaw. He enjoyed introducing students to emblem studies, mentoring younger colleagues, and doing the work of the discipline. He often did the heavy lifting. While he was the leading emblem scholar in the US for a number of years, he was also widely respected internationally as indicated by his position as president of the international Society for Emblem Studies, an honorary title that colleagues bestow selectively and at infrequent intervals for contributions to all areas of emblem studies.

Dan was a good friend and mentor.  He helped put emblem studies on the radar for all Renaissance scholars.


Mara Renée Wade

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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