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Melvin Seiden, professor emeritus of English, dies
June 14, 2012Tweet
Melvin Seiden, 88, professor emeritus of English, died Sunday, June 10, following a lengthy illness. Seiden earned his master’s degree from the University of Chicago and his PhD from the University of Minnesota. An Army veteran, he joined the faculty at Binghamton in 1959, after teaching at Kansas State University. A Fulbright professor at Peking University in China from 1984-1985, he taught Renaissance drama, criticism and the novel at Binghamton until his retirement in 1994.
He was author of numerous publications on Shakespearean drama, including Measure for Measure: Casuistry and Artistry and The Revenge Motive in Websterean Tragedy.
Long-time colleague Albert Tricomi, distinguished teaching professor of English, team-taught Shakespeare with Seiden and Associate Professor of English Al Vos in the 1970s.
Tricomi and Seiden were tennis partners for two decades – Tricomi calling Seiden “fleet of foot and with a good inside-out forehand” – and they also continued to share a passion for the works of Shakespeare.
Seiden’s intellectual side was very prominent, said Tricomi, who praised Seiden’s work, referring particularly to Measure for Measure as a very sensitive, Chicago-style analysis of the play. “It’s characterized, as is all of his work, by a tremendous sensitivity to the characters as if they’re real,” Tricomi said. “Mel was a very probing psychological interpreter, and in that same spirit, he delivered the best series of lectures I’ve ever heard on King Lear and the Fool.
“I remember he could be crusty, and his talking about what Lear could learn at his great advanced age about kingship. That there’s one part in my heart that’s sorry yet for thee – the Fool – and he tells the Fool that,” Tricomi said. “Mel would talk about Lear’s great comeback from being a king of power to a king of understanding. That final understanding culminating in love for Cordelia that he expresses to her. It was remarkable for him (Seiden) to speak that in a public setting.”
Tricomi called Seiden a very direct person who liked arguing – taking a position and defending it. “He considered himself a polemicist and he had startling perspectives and breadth,” Tricomi said.
Seiden also gave Tricomi the great gift of opera. “His love of opera was quite comprehensive and since then I’ve become a Puccini fan and after that, a Verdi fan,” Tricomi said. “I told him, ‘You’ve changed my life,’ and he said, “Oh, stop it!’”
Seiden is survived by his wife of 63 years, Jacqueline (Smith) Seiden, two sons, two daughters, two sons-in-law, two daughters-in-law and six grandchildren. At his request, there will be no services. Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to the Garabed Fattal Community Free Clinic, c/o Clinical Campus, 425 Robinson Street, Binghamton, NY 13901. To forward condolences, visit www.demunnfh.com.