GEORGE G. WING
Professor George Gordon Wing died during the
night of December 19, 1991, at his home in Austin. A Latin Americanist
scholar, Professor Wing had been a member of The University of Texas
faculty since 1962. His faculty appointment was in the Spanish and
Department and he enjoyed a lengthy association with the University's
Institute for Latin American Studies. He is survived by his wife,
López Wing, an educator whose special concerns are bilingual
education and the entry into Texas classrooms of children of recent
Professor Wing was born August 31, 1922, in Philadelphia,
where he was graduated from Northeast Catholic High School in 1940.
From 1942 to 1946, he served in the United States Navy. After completing
his military service, he began his undergraduate studies at Temple
in Philadelphia, completing his undergraduate degree in 1949 with a
major in Journalism and a secondary concentration in English literature.
In his post-graduate studies, Professor Wing shifted his scholarly
focus to Spanish-language letters. During the year 1949-1950,
he attended the Graduate School of Mexico City College, pursuing coursework
in philosophy and Hispanic literature. In 1951 he was awarded a fellowship
from the International Institute of Education for travel and study
Latin America. When in 1952 he began his doctoral work at the University
of California at Berkeley, he entered through the Sociology Department.
The next year, though, he transferred into the program in Romance Languages
and Literatures, with a concentration in Spanish and Spanish American
Professor Wing received his doctorate from the University
of California at Berkeley in 1961 with a dissertation on Octavio Paz.
In his subsequent scholarly writing, he monitored with close, knowledgeable,
and critical attention the changes in the outlook and literary practice
of the celebrated Mexican poet and essayist. Over the years, he maintained
a knowing, generally sympathetic, sometimes admiring and at other times
polemical relation with this figure.
In 1962, Professor Wing began
his career as an Assistant Professor of Spanish at The University of
Texas and was promoted to
Associate Professor in 1968. During his years at The University of
Texas, Professor Wing most frequently offered courses on contemporary
American narrative and Mexican literature. In addition to teaching
in his research areas, he offered beginning and intermediary Spanish
and served as undergraduate adviser both in Latin American Studies
and in Spanish and Portuguese. At the graduate level, he developed
of seminar topics. He was particularly drawn to a research concern
that resulted in a course entitled "The Disappearing Hero in Spanish American
Fiction." He was especially eager to give graduate students a sense
of the changes that had taken place, over the course of the twentieth
century, in the novelistic treatment of space, time, and person. Consequently,
many of his advanced courses were designed to show a historical evolution
over the course of the century, with the emphasis upon the features
that most distinguish twentieth-century narrative innovation.
comparatist in his approach to teaching literature, Professor Wing
would often require students to read one
or two European or U.S. novels along with the Spanish American narrative
that was the primary subject matter of a course. His Spanish American
reading lists frequently included works by John Dos Passos, whose fragmented
and disjointed construction of time and space exemplified for him a
quintessentially twentieth-century line of experimentation. André Malraux's La condition humaine enjoyed
a central place in Professor Wing's vision of twentieth-century narrative;
he not only placed it
on required reading lists, but also encouraged his colleagues and advisees
to read and reread the novel.
Late in his career, the longtime Latin
Professor Wing surprised some of his colleagues by cultivating a scholarly
and teaching interest in Spanish peninsular writers of the Generation
of 1898. He successfully offered on several occasions a senior seminar
on this group of writers.
In his research, Professor Wing concentrated
on Mexican and other Spanish American writers of the twentieth century,
with special emphasis on the ways in which tendencies in contemporary
social thought intersected with the creation of imaginative writing.
Some publications that show his characteristic range of interests are
"'El viudo Román' y la niña Romelia" (1990), "Some Remarks
on the Literary Criticism of Carlos Fuentes" (1982), "Octavio Paz, or
the Revolution in Search of an Actor" (1973), "Trilce I: A Second
Look" (1969), and "El teatro de Solórzano y el mito" (1963).
His work appeared in such outlets as Revista Iberoamericana, Revista
Hispánica Moderna, and World Literature Today. At
the time of his death, Professor Wing had in progress a book-length
study under the working title, The Short Novel of the 1950s and 1960s
in Mexico: A Critical Reappraisal.
While regarded primarily as
a Mexicanist, Professor Wing was also a student of the work of the
celebrated Argentine writer
Jorge Luis Borges. He served as Vice President of the International
Jorge Luis Borges Society and directed graduate students working on
Borges. He cultivated a number of other literary specialties; for example,
he was a dedicated reader of crime fiction and a defender of the scholarly
examination of this subgenre. When already well advanced in his career,
he taught himself Portuguese and became an enthusiastic follower of
Luso-Brazilian literature and intellectual life.
Professor Wing was
a dedicated, careful, and highly judgmental reader of both creative
literature and literary criticism.
He was an advocate of a literary criticism not too technical for a
general educated public, yet detailed enough to account for subtle
of literary language and construction. He was a great admirer of literary
critics who expressed a broader vision of culture and society through
wide-ranging, meditative essays. He especially appreciated Irving Howe,
Edmund Wilson, André Malraux, Leslie Fiedler, and Isaiah Berlin.
Professor Wing prized, and often applied in his own studies, Berlin's
famous dichotomy between thinkers who were "hedgehogs," knowing only
one thing, and those "foxes" who knew many things. He also admired C.
Wright Mills for his humanistic, interdisciplinary essays in sociology
and for his willingness to make straightforward judgments. Professor
Wing often turned to those New Critics, such as R. P. Blackmur, whose
work revealed their wider outlook on society and literature; he praised
these generalists for their refusal to become "technicians" of literary
analysis. In his own critical writing, Professor Wing proudly persisted
in setting forth his ideas with an essay-like, plain-spoken elegance,
rejecting with disdain the notion that a student of literature should
define his or her methodology. He felt that his scholarly writing had
benefited from his training in journalism, and he defended the principle
that literary critics should enjoy no more license to be obscure than
do working journalists. He viewed evaluation as an indispensable element
in literary analysis; he delighted in unsettling colleagues by pronouncing
trenchant judgments on the most respected literary works. While his
electrifyingly negative verdicts on works were the most remembered,
he could also be an enthusiastic advocate of those authors, such as
the novelist Roberto Arlt, to whom, in his estimation, literary fame
had been unjustly denied.
Professor Wing's office was a museum and
something of a shrine to the great practitioners of humanistic thought.
its apparent chaos, Professor Wing could produce articles out of yellowing
issues of Partisan Review or Saturday Review, reminiscences
of a time when little magazines, rather than academic journals, were
the vehicle of expression for the nation's literary intellectual. The
walls and door of his office were covered with portraits of intellectuals
who exemplified the type of critical analysis and expression of which
Professor Wing was a stalwart defender, juxtaposed with excerpted citations
that highlighted either Wing's intellectual ideals or his often dark,
grotesque sense of humor.
During his twenty-nine years on The University
Texas faculty, Professor Wing directed to completion six doctoral dissertations
and upwards of sixteen master's reports and theses. He frequently gave
away to his students ideas for research projects that he had been turning
over in his own mind for a long time. Some of Professor Wing's doctoral
students, such as Carter Wheelock and Didier Jaén, went on to
become well-established figures in the profession. Of the doctoral
that students wrote under his supervision, several later became books
or were the source of articles. These include The Mythmaker: A Study
of Motif and Symbol in the Work of Jorge Luis Borges (1969), the
much-cited analysis by Wheelock, and Detective Fiction from Latin
America (1989), Amelia S. Simpson's development of a research theme
that Professor Wing had long been cultivating. Jaén utilized
in his research career a good deal of material developed while completing
his 1964 dissertation under Professor Wing's supervision. The Poetry
and Poetics of Jorge Luis Borges by Paul Cheselka, published in
1987, also exemplifies the research carried out by doctoral students
under Professor Wing's guidance.
Robert M. Berdahl,
The University of Texas at Austin
H. Paul Kelley, Secretary
The General Faculty
This Memorial Resolution was prepared
by a special committee consisting of Professors Robert Brody (Chair),
Frederick G. Hensey, and Naomi Lindstrom.