Nov. 26, 2013

Cushing Strout, professor emeritus of English, dies

S. Cushing Strout, professor emeritus in the Department of English, died Nov. 21 in Ithaca at age 90.

“A brilliant, innovative and important scholar in American Literature and American studies, Cushing Strout was a paradigm of personal and intellectual integrity,” said Strout’s colleague Daniel Schwarz, the Frederic J. Whiton Professor of English Literature. “Particularly in my early Cornell days, I regarded him as a generous mentor from whom I could always get sound advice. He was also an accomplished magician, who entertained friends at social gatherings, and a fine tennis player.”

A member of the faculty since 1964, he held the Ernest I. White Chair of American Studies and Humane Letters from 1975 until his retirement in 1989. Strout wrote many scholarly essays and books on American intellectual and literary history, including “The Pragmatic Revolt in American History: Carl L. Becker and Charles A. Beard” (1958), a pioneering study on Becker and Beard’s economic readings of constitutional history, and “Making American Tradition: Visions & Revisions from Ben Franklin to Alice Walker” (1990).

Strout had a keen interest in magic, working as a semiprofessional magician in clubs, hotels and occasionally for the United Services Organization during World War II. In 2005, he published a book of card tricks, “On the Other Side of the Mirror.”

He received a Ph.D. from Harvard in American studies, and then taught at Williams College, Yale University and California Institute of Technology, before he came to Cornell in 1962 as a visiting professor.

Strout is survived by his wife, Jean.