Wayne's world remembered


“Wayne’s world,” said English professor James K. Chandler, AM’72, PhD’78, is how the undergraduates he inherited from his colleague Wayne Booth for part 3 of a three-course sequence described the class they’d had for the previous two quarters. It was a place “where you could say anything you liked, as long as you got the tone right, but you could claim only what you had the evidence” to support.

Chandler was one of ten speakers (colleagues, friends, and family) at a March 9 memorial service for Booth, AM’47, PhD’50, the George M. Pullman distinguished service professor emeritus in English, who died October 10 at age 84.

The speakers’ claims for Booth’s prowess as teacher, thinker, listener, and inspired amateur were well buttressed by the evidence: founder of the journal Critical Inquiry, author of lit-crit classics (The Rhetoric of Fiction, to name one), a Quantrell Award-winning teacher, and a lifelong musician who played the cello with middling skill and exceptional enjoyment.

The Rockefeller Chapel service, book-ended with chamber music by the Pacifica Quartet, featured Booth’s own voice, both in selections from his memoir My Many Selves, read by daughter Alison Booth and in a 1999 radio interview on the publication of For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals. Asked why he played the cello, knowing he played it less than perfectly, Booth credited wife Phyllis and his more musical friends: “They didn’t say, ‘Stop.’”


In 1997 Wayne Booth was honored as one of eight University emeritus faculty to receive the Alumni Association's Norman Maclean Faculty Awards, recognizing their extraordinary contributions to teaching and to the student experience of life on campus. Photo by Matthew Gilson.

March 12, 2006