George R. Stewart

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
George Rippey Stewart
Grstewart.jpg
Stewart's books about U.S. highways were based on his cross-country drives of 1924, 1949 and 1950.
Born (1895-05-31)May 31, 1895
Sewickley, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died August 22, 1980(1980-08-22) (aged 85)
U.S.
Occupation Historian, novelist, toponymist, and professor

George Rippey Stewart (May 31, 1895 – August 22, 1980) was an American historian, toponymist, novelist, and a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. His 1959 book Pickett's Charge, a detailed history of the final attack at Gettysburg, was called "essential for an understanding of the Battle of Gettysburg".[1] His 1949 post-apocalyptic novel Earth Abides won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951.

Early life and university career[edit]

Born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, Stewart was the son of an engineer who designed gasworks and electric railways (but who later became an orange "rancher" in Southern California). The younger Stewart earned a bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1917, an MA from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. in English literature from Columbia University in 1922. He accepted a position in the English department at Berkeley in 1923.[2]

Stewart was a founding member of the American Name Society in 1956-57, and he once served as an expert witness in a murder trial as a specialist in family names. His best-known academic work is Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States (1945; reprinted, New York Review Books, 2008). He wrote three other books on names: A Concise Dictionary of American Place-Names (1970), Names on the Globe (1975), and American Given Names (1979). His scholarly works on the poetic meter of ballads (published under the name George R. Stewart, Jr.), beginning with his 1922 Ph.D. dissertation at Columbia, remain important in their field.

Oeuvre[edit]

As an author, Stewart's output was at once extraordinarily diverse, highly original, and tremendously important. Ordeal by Hunger, Pickett's Charge, and other works are examinations of American history, but are unusual in their probing of the interaction of human beings with their physical and social environments. His greatest achievement as a novelist, Earth Abides, takes somewhat the same perspective, but in the context of a collapse of civilization, in which everything formerly taken for granted about civilization and the situation of human beings in their environment can no longer be assumed. This radically altered circumstance permits Stewart to raise and examine issues rarely, if ever, tackled by other novelists. East of Giants is historical fiction. Man, An Autobiography is one of the very few works of speculative anthropology, in which he attempts to deduce how key developments in prehistorical civilization must have unfolded, and also offers a wealth of highly original and interesting insights into the character of early civilization. Good Lives provides a series of biographical sketches with the end in view of determining what it is that makes for a good life, an undertaking having much in common with, say, Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics. Not So Rich as You Think (1968) was a prescient early essay in environmentalism (Rachel Carson's Silent Spring had been published only a few years earlier, in 1962, and had a much narrower focus). Storm takes an immense storm as its protagonist, an extraordinary departure in itself, and again teases out the consequences for human beings of this large-scale environmental disruption. Other works, such as Names on the Land and American Ways of Life offer other unique insights and perspectives not found anywhere else.

Taken together, this highly enlightening body of work provides a breadth and depth of perspective found elsewhere only in authors like Toynbee, the Durants, and Carroll Quigley, but in a far more palatable and accessible form. Achievements of this stature should have earned Stewart a lasting reputation as one of America's greatest writers and men of letters.

However, the significance of his output was largely overlooked during his lifetime, and is now almost forgotten. He is today known primarily for his only science fiction novel Earth Abides (1949), a post-apocalyptic novel, for which he won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. It was dramatized on radio's Escape and served as an inspiration for Stephen King's The Stand, as King has stated.[3]

His 1941 novel Storm, featuring as its protagonist a Pacific storm called "Maria," prompted the National Weather Service to use personal names to designate storms[4] and inspired Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe to write the song "They Call the Wind Maria" for their 1951 musical Paint Your Wagon.[5] Storm was dramatized as A Storm Called Maria on a 1959 episode of ABC's Disneyland. Another novel, Fire (1948), and an historical work, Ordeal by Hunger (1936), also evoked environmental catastrophes.

Bibliography[edit]

Cover of the 1979 Oxford University Press paperback edition of American Given Names.
  • The Technique of English Verse (1930)
  • Bret Harte: Argonaut and Exile (1931)
  • English Composition, A Laboratory Course, (1936)
  • Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party (1936; rpt. 1992). ISBN 978-0-395-61159-3
  • John Phoenix (1937)
  • East of Giants (1939)
  • Doctor's Oral (1939)
  • Take your Bible in one hand;: The life of William Henry Thomes, author of A whaleman's adventures on land and sea, Lewey and I, The bushrangers, A gold hunter's adventures, etc.", 1939
  • Storm (1941; rpt. 2003). ISBN 978-1-890771-74-4
  • Names on the Land: an historical account of place-naming in the United States (1945; reprinted 1958, 1967 [Sentry paperback], 2008). ISBN 978-1-59017-273-5
  • Man, An Autobiography (1946)
  • Fire (1948)
  • Earth Abides (1949; rpt. 2006). ISBN 978-0-345-48713-1
  • The Year of the Oath (in collaboration) (1950)
  • Sheep Rock (1951)
  • The Opening of the California Trail: the story of the Stevens party by Moses Schallenberger, 1888; edited 1953
  • U.S. 40: Cross Section of the United States of America (1953)
  • American Ways of Life (1954)
  • These Men My Friends (1954)
  • To California by Covered Wagon (1954)
reprinted as Pioneers Go West (1987)
  • The Years of the City (1955)
  • N.A. 1: The North-South Continental Highway (1957)
  • Pickett's Charge (1959)
  • The California Trail (1962)
  • Pickett's charge: A microhistory of the final attack at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863 (Premier Civil War Classic), 1963
  • Committee of Vigilance (1964)
  • Good Lives (1967)
  • Not So Rich as You Think (1968)
  • The Department of English at the University of California, Berkeley (1968)
  • A Concise Dictionary of American Place-Names (1970)
  • Names on the Globe (1975)
  • American Given Names (1979). ISBN 978-0-19-504040-1

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • "George R. Stewart, toponymist," Names, Volume 24, 1976, pp. 77–85.
  1. ^ Billings, Elden E.; Stewart, George R.; Stern, Philip Van Doren (1963–1964). "Rev. of George R. Steward, Pickett's Charge: A Microhistory of the Final Attack at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863". Military Affairs 27 (4): 181–82. doi:10.2307/1985012. JSTOR 1985012. 
  2. ^ Christine Smallwood, "Stewartsville," The Nation, December 8, 2008, pp. 25.
  3. ^ Dodds, Georges T. "George R. Stewart" (sidebar). Retrieved 2007-06-12. 
  4. ^ "Naming Hurricanes" (National Hurricane Center). Retrieved 2007-06-12. 
  5. ^ Dorst, Neal. Hurricane Research Division: Frequently Asked Questions:J4
  • "Scott, Donald, The Life and Truth of George R. Stewart; A Literary Biography of the Author of EARTH ABIDES"[1]

Listen to[edit]

External links[edit]