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Professor Dan Gunn receives the Distinguished Faculty Award

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On December 7, 2016, AUP’s Faculty Senate honored Professor Dan Gun with the Distinguished Faculty award. As Professor Roy Rosenstein declared in his letter of recommendation, “Quid plura? Need I say more? I may have tired my two readers with this long enumeration of Dan’s accomplishments on the world stage (as Shakespeare’s Jacques would say), but I have not yet exhausted our colleague's generous, even extravagant, contributions to our university.”

When Dan Gunn left Edinburgh to pursue his studies at the University of Sussex, it was, as he recently recounted to Lydia Davis in their conversation for Music & Literature, “not least because I had read a book by Gabriel Josipovici entitled The World and the Book; it said on the cover that he was teaching there. What I admired (and still admire) about this wonderful critical work was that it dealt openly and freely with different periods and authors, from different cultures and languages, from Dante to Proust to Saul Bellow.” This appreciation would later be coupled with his realization that with diversity of pursuit came greater fulfillment, at least for him. “The Sussex of those days confirmed for me that one did not have to be (only) a specialist, that one could draw inspiration from many sources, refusing to be boxed into a single discipline or period or language.” 

In keeping with this early ambition, nothing about Professor Gunn’s teaching or writing could possibly be pigeonholed into one category or area of study. In a teaching career that at AUP alone has spanned 30 years, his classes have covered topics as wide-ranging as Shakespeare and post-war European literature; his creation of the Center for Writers and Translators has promoted years of literary activity and translation at AUP; and the Cahiers series that he edits, the 29th number of which has just been published, has spawned more frequent opportunities to be heard for the writers of today and tomorrow. Likewise, his own literary output runs the gamut from fiction (Almost You and his most recent novel the Emperor of Ice Cream) to literary theory (Psychoanalysis and Fiction: An Exploration of Literary and Psychoanalytic Borders) to translation (Reads Like a Novel).

No mention of Professor Gunn cannot but marvel at his 30 years of detailed exploration of the extensive correspondence of Samuel Beckett, culminating in the publication this fall of the fourth and final volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett. As President Schenck stated after attending the celebration of this milestone at the Irish Embassy and the Ecole Normale Supérieure,  "Dan has done the university proud by this painstaking labor of love." Over the years Professor Gunn engaged many AUP students in the Beckett work, providing them a unique intellectual experience. The last volume, like its predecessors, has achieved critical acclaim; fittingly, the Irish Times review of Volume IV, in praising the editorial team for their extraordinary effort, cited:  "Dan Gunn, who contributed the magisterial introduction to this volume..." In the New York Review of Books Fintan O’Toole wrote: “Superb annotation throughout the four volumes of the letters… surely one of the greatest editions of letters ever published.”

While Professor Gunn’s contributions to literature are profound, his devotion to the university and to his students are equally remarkable. He continually seeks out new arenas in which to apply his many fields of expertise, in order to inspire new academic exploration within the University, and has mentored students during and beyond their AUP years, tirelessly helping them identify their own paths of discovery and creation.

So, how to end a piece that can make no claim to an exhaustive summary of all that Professor Dan Gunn has done, is doing, will do? We can perhaps do no better than to conclude with the conclusion to Professor Rosenstein’s own letter: “In my studied opinion, perhaps no other academic currently at AUP has shown the same degree of local engagement and world-class accomplishment as Daniel Moore Gunn. If I cite his full name here, it is to recall with what modesty and kindness the man we know simply as Dan conducts himself among faculty and students.”