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September 17, 1998

Carol Kay

Carol Kay, associate professor in the Department of English and an important interdisciplinary scholar of the 18th century, died Sept. 12, 1998, of complications from severe aplastic anemia. She was 51.

Kay graduated from Radcliffe College in 1967 with high honors and was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American literature and language from Harvard University in 1975.

She made her career in university teaching and scholarship, beginning at a time when there were still few women among the faculty ranks at many top institutions. At Harvard she was active in, and in 1972 served as co-chair of, the Graduate Women's Association. While first lecturer and then assistant professor of English at Princeton University from 1973 to 1979, she was especially engaged with helping to establish affirmative action policies for university employment, working with campus and national groups. While at Princeton, she also developed one of her most enduring commitments: introducing small, discussion-size classes to great works of English poetry.

According to Claudia L. Johnson of Princeton, who studied with Kay, she was a generous and devoted teacher, who was "unforgettable to her students and inspired them by the depth of her erudition and the sheer brilliance of her conversation." Kay's 1988 book, "Political Constructions," is "magnificently authoritative" said Johnson, a leading 18th-century scholar. The book is "one of this generation's most important studies of 18th-century fiction" and "challenges received opinions about novels and politics alike." The book defines pathbreaking connections between political history and imaginative writing — especially prose fiction and moral philosophy — in the period from the English Civil War to the French Revolution, with treatments of such diverse figures as Thomas Hobbes, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, David Hume, Laurence Sterne and Edmund Burke.

Kay also held faculty appointments at Amherst College, Washington University in St. Louis and New York University before joining Pitt's faculty in 1989.

"Carol Kay will be remembered for the impressive range and the fine discrimination in her work," said David Bartholomae, chair of English. "As a teacher and scholar, her projects moved easily across the fields of literature, law, history and political science." Her scholarly contributions included chapters in books and articles in journals. She also served in advisory editorial capacities to several interdisciplinary journals.

Kay is survived by her husband, Jonathan Arac, also a faculty member in English, and her brother, Jeffrey Kay, of Takoma Park, Maryland.

A replenishment blood drive is being conducted to help replace the stock used during her treatment. Those wishing to donate blood in her name are asked to use the identification number 105-913-40. Campus blood drives will be conducted Sept. 21 in 371 Salk Hall, and Sept. 30 and Oct. 26-30 in Forbes Quad Galleria. Those wishing to contribute to a memorial should send donations to Gerri England, Department of English, 526 CL.

A campus memorial service will be held in October.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 31 Issue 2

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