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Garber, a Thoreau scholar, dies at 77

Frederick M. Garber, a Thoreau scholar who helped to establish the study of comparative literature at Binghamton when he joined the faculty in the 1960s, died June 26 at the age of 77.

“The department that exists today is very much what he envisioned at that time,” said Christopher Fynsk, a former professor of comparative literature and philosophy at Binghamton who now teaches in Scotland. “His openness of spirit and his unflinching support of progressive and advanced work made possible this endurance of the idea of comparative literature at Binghamton.”

Garber earned a doctorate from Yale University in 1963 and joined Binghamton’s faculty in 1966. The author of several books and numerous literary articles, Garber was president of the American Comparative Literature Association from 1985-89.

“He showed that comparatism lurked everywhere, that no single figure was a figure in isolation,” said Marilyn Gaddis Rose, distinguished service professor. She noted that Garber was a protégé of the literary historian and critic René Wellek.

“He was an eminent scholar, and one of the few people who had unique insights in the field of comparative literature and the necessary continuous changes in this discipline,” said Gisela Brinker-Gabler, professor of comparative literature.

Brinker-Gabler said she and Garber shared many interests, including romanticism and modern poetry and an admiration for the writer Ingeborg Bachmann. She recalled Garber as an inspiring teacher as well as a fan of classic movies.

Garber, a Vestal resident, retired as a distinguished professor of comparative literature in 1998 and continued to serve the University as a Bartle professor until 2003.

Garber is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Gift Processing Center, P.O. Box 96268, Washington, D.C. 20077-7487.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08