David H. Greene (1913-2008)


Life
[David Herbert Greene]; b. 4 Nov. 1913 in Boston; son of Herbert Greene, who was descended from the earliest Massachusetts settlers, and Annie Roche, a first-generation Irishwoman; ed. Harvard, grad. BA 1936, MA 1937, and PhD, 1939; studied in Ireland on a Harvard Fellowship; served as US naval intelligence officer in Britain during World War II;
 
issued, with Edward Stephens, J. M. Synge 1871-1909 (Macmillan 1959) - an abbreviation of the very long biography by the former; taught at Harvard, Boston University, New Rochelle, the US Naval Academy, remaining forty years at New York University, where he was chairman of the English Department; chaperoned Sean O’Casey at Harvard in the 1930s, and remained life-long friend; sold 126 O’Casey letters to Jack Carney, labour leader, to NYU Library, 1966;
 
refused permission to David Krause to print them in view of personal references - a decision later overruled by the dean of libraries; donated his own O’Casey letters to NYU Library; retired from NYU, 1979, but continued as emeritus lecturer up to 1985; also a popular lecturer on the WCBS-TV series “Sunrise Semester”; m. Catherine Healy, with five children; d. at home.

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Works
ed., An Anthology of Irish Literature (NY UP 1954; 1971); with Edward M. Stephens, J. M. Synge 1871-1909 (NY: Macmillan 1959); ed., with Vivian Mercier, One Thousand Years of Irish Prose: Part I - The Literary Revival (NY: Devin-Adair 1952; NY: Grosset & Dunlap 1961); with Dan H. Laurence, ed., The Matter with Ireland, by G. B. Shaw (London: Rupert Hart-Davis 1962) [viz., a selection of Shaw’s prose on Ireland]; with ed., with Frank O’Connor, A Golden Treasury of Irish Poetry AD 600-1200 (London 1967); ed., Writing in Irish Today (1972).

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Criticism
Obituary: Dennis Hevesi, “David Green, Scholar of Irish Literature, Dies at 94”, in The New York Times (13 July 2008) [online]; also Wikipedia > David Greene [online; accessed 16.09.2008];

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Commentary
Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature, London: Pluto Press 1998): quotes from An Anthology of Irish Literature: ‘The literary movement which these forces and these writers produced is unique, if only for the fact that it achieved two thinigs which could easily have cancelled each other. It made articulate the ideals of a people who were in the process of achieving political independence and of re-establishing their national identy, and at the same time it produced a literature capable of commanding respect independently of its geographical and political orientation [...]. Today students in American universities and people of culture everywhere are interested in modern Irish literature not because it either flatters or lessens the Irish in the eyes of the world, but because its achievement are formidable and significant.’ (p.xx; Smyth, p.173.) Smyth remarks: ‘Rather than cancelling each other out, then, the nationalist and universalist impulses in modern Irish literature are celebrated “… everywhere”. That is to say, the unique thing about Irish tradition - the thing that makes it difference - is its universal appeal, its similarity to other traditions. The self-appointed role of the editors is to maintain focus on these contradictory impulses, while offering themselves as the intellectual subjects best equipped to identify one from the other. The contradictions of modern Irish identity are thus resolved in a stroke, and solved in such a way [as] to keep the literary intellectuals employed indefinitely as they set about the now crucial task of separaint the unique from the general, the national from the universal.’ (Smyth, p.173.)

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Notes
Correspondence
: A long letter of David H. Greene relative to the Synge Centenary making mention of J. P. Donleavy’s Gingerman and responses to same are held in the papers of Sybil Le Brocquy, now in the hands of Bruce Stewart (Univ. of Ulster.) The letter will shortly be reproduced on this web-page. (Also included in Mrs. Le Brocquy’s papers are a letter from J. M. Synge to his mother, written in London in 1903 - see under J. M. Synge, infra.)

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