Frederick Turner, a Biographical Note

 

A Quick Biography...

This brief biography will hardly do Fred justice, but will help you get a fast, general idea of what exactly Fred is, even though he has many interests in many different areas. This is written through my (Ben's) viewpoint, so I can only start from when I was born, even though I'm learning a lot about my dad through creating this site.

The Turner household has become very accustomed to Fred's busy lifestyle, which demands that he travels across the world to give lectures and put forth his opinions in many different places. I suppose it has always been that way while I've been alive, and I've gotten used to it, even though as the one who is usually home the most (when not at college), I end up being his secretary for all the calls he receives.

Fred earned everything he has right now at such an early age. He grew up in somewhat of a poor family but worked his way into Oxford and later into very highly esteemed positions at Kenyon and the University of Texas at Dallas. He married Mei Lin while in England and they had both Daniel and me, Daniel being the older one. Fred and Mei Lin always provided us with an intellectually stimulating atmosphere to live in, and it helped our educations tremendously. Even being the busy parents they are, they found time to help us with what we needed to get done.

Fred is a very comfortable person at a scholarly level, as you'll read further below, but he has also become a comfortable person in my world, which is based upon growing up in a realm of popular culture. Do not be shocked to find Fred throwing the baseball around with me, cooking on the grill, going to a baseball game or rooting for the lowly Dallas Mavericks to at least lose by less than thirty points. Fred will not be quick to admit it, but he makes an excellent American father for a man who was born in England.

Most everyone likes Fred, partly because he is just so charismatic. I have a lot of fun going to parties and gatherings which he attends, so I can watch him befriend everyone there and wonder if I could someday do the same.

The main purpose was to present the alternate side of Fred, since that is the side I have grown to recognize more than his professional side, even though we often have very intellectual discussions about Socrates or religion or whatever. Hopefully, this proves to be a good introduction to Fred, leading you, the reader, into the more accomplished details of Fred's life.

Beginnings...

Frederick Turner was born in Northamptonshire, England, in 1943. After spending several years in central Africa, where his parents, the anthropologists Victor W. and Edith L. B. Turner, were conducting field research, Frederick Turner was educated at the University of Oxford (1962-67), where he obtained the degrees of B.A., M.A., and B.Litt. (a terminal degree equivalent to the Ph.D.) in English Language and Literature. He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1977. He is presently Founders Professor of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas, having held academic positions at the University of California at Santa Barbara (assistant professor 1967-72), Kenyon College (associate professor 1972-85), and the University of Exeter in England (visiting professor 1984-85). From 1978-82 he was editor of The Kenyon Review.

 

Family...

He has been married since 1966 to Mei Lin Turner (née Chang, a literary periodical editor), and has two sons, Daniel Frederick and Victor Benjamin.

 

Books...

He is the author of the following books: Shakespeare and the Nature of Time (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1971: criticism); Between Two Lives (Wesleyan University Press, 1972: poetry); Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (London University Press, 1974: edition with notes and introduction); Counter-Terra (Christopher's Books, 1978: poetry); A Double Shadow (Putnam's/Berkley, 1978: a science fiction novel); The Return (Countryman Press, 1979: poetry); The Garden (Ptyx Press, 1985: poetry); The New World (Princeton University Press, 1985: an epic poem); Natural Classicism: Essays on Literature and Science (Paragon House, 1985) (Reprinted in paperback by University Press of Virginia, 1992); Genesis (Saybrook Publishing Co./Norton, 1988: an epic poem); Rebirth of Value: Meditations on Beauty, Ecology, Religion and Education (State University of New York Press, 1991); Tempest, Flute, and Oz: Essays on the Future (Persea Books, 1992); Beauty: The Value of Values (University Press of Virginia, 1992); April Wind (University Press of Virginia, 1992; poetry); Foamy Sky: The Major Poems of Miklos Radnoti (with Zsuzsanna Ozsvath; Princeton University Press, Lockert Series, 1992: translations from the Hungarian); The Culture of Hope: A New Birth of the Classical Spirit (The Free Press, 1995).

His work has been translated and published in French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Hungarian, Italian, Rumanian, Macedonian, Russian, Turkish, and other languages.

More information on Fred's books in the Works section.

 

Periodicals...

He contributes essays, poetry, reviews, and translations to many periodicals, including Harper's Magazine, The Wilson Quarterly, Poetry, Reason, Forbes ASAP, Society, The Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, The American Arts Quarterly, New Literary History, Oral Tradition, The Southern Review, The Yale Review, The Missouri Review, The Ontario Review, The National Review, The Reaper, The Denver Quarterly, The Plains Poetry Journal, Crazyhorse, Edge City Review, The Journal of Social and Biological Structures, The Study of Time, The Southwest Review, The Partisan Review, Shenandoah, The Stanford Literary Review, American Enterprise, The Humanist, Chronicles, Zone, Common Knowledge, The Formalist, Hellas, The Chaucer Review, American Theatre, and Performing Arts Journal.

More information on Fred's articles in the Works section.

 

Television...

He has appeared on two PBS TV documentaries, "The Elephant on the Hill" and "The Web of Life", in the prizewinning Smithsonian World documentary series, and on the Discovery Channel's science documentary "Understanding Beauty". He has also been interviewed several times on National Public Radio, BBC, CBC, and other radio broadcasts.

 

Poetry...

He has lectured or given poetry readings at over a hundred institutions in the U.S., Canada, and Western and Eastern Europe. As a poet he is known especially for his use of the longer genres, the narrative, science fiction, and strict metrical forms, and his work in these areas has been widely discussed. He is a founder of and spokesman for two recent and influential movements in contemporary American poetry, the New Formalism and the New Narrative (sometimes named together as Expansive Poetry). His epic poems The New World and Genesis have been the subject of several critical studies, theses and dissertations.

 

Criticism...

As a literary and cultural critic he was first known for his Shakespeare criticism and for his scholarship in the field of English Renaissance philosophy. In recent years he has written on Renaissance science and art, Shakespearean theater and performance, Christopher Marlowe, The Tempest, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and The Merchant of Venice, and he is presently writing a book on Shakespeare's economics. He is a founder of the literary-critical school known as Natural Classicism. His three most recent books of essays and his monograph on beauty explore these ideas. Another emphasis has been on the relationship between science and technology on one hand, and the arts and humanities on the other. He has thus been involved in groundbreaking studies of the neurobiology of esthetics, the ritual and performative roots of the arts, and the humanistic implications of evolution, ecology, recombinant DNA technology, space travel, artificial intelligence, brain science, and chaos theory. His recent book The Culture of Hope: A New Birth of the Classical Spirit assesses the chances for a revival of our cultural energies at the turn of the millennium, based on the remarkable new developments in scientific cosmology and technology.

He has been a leading theorist of restoration environmentalism, staking out, with William R. Jordan III, a new vision of the human place in nature, where human welfare and technological progress can work with, rather than against, natural evolution.

His contributions as an interdisciplinary scholar have been recognized, cited, or published in the fields of literary and critical theory, comparative literature, anthropology, psychology, neuroscience, sociobiology, oral tradition studies, landscape architecture, planetary biology, space science, performance theory, education, the sociology of knowledge, ecological restoration, political philosophy, the physics of computation, theology, the history and philosophy of science and technology, translation theory, Medieval and Renaissance literature, media studies, architecture, and art history. He is or has been a member of several research groups, on subjects including the biological foundations of esthetics, artificial intelligence, ecological restoration, law and systems research, time, interdisciplinarity, the sociological study of emotion, chaos theory, and ecopoetics. His essay (with the distinguished German neuropsychologist Ernst Pöppel) on the neurobiology and cultural universality of poetic meter has been widely cited and reprinted, as have his essays for Harper's on modernism, education and environmentalism. He is an adviser to the Society for Ecological Restoration and a contributor to its periodical, Restoration and Management Notes. He has been a consultant to NASA's long range planning group, and was invited to the Ames Space Center in California with Carl Sagan, Christopher McKay and other experts in 1991 for a workshop on Mars terraforming. He is a contributing editor for Reason Magazine. He is or has been an advisor to the Journal of Social and Biological Structures, Hellas, Poems and Poetics, The American Arts Quarterly, the Djerassi Foundation, the Quest Foundation, the Newington-Cropsey Foundation, the Peace University of Berlin, and the Werner Reimers Stiftung research group on biology and esthetics, and is a Fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. He has been a trustee of the Greenhill School and the Isthmus Institute, and is the literary adviser for "Wishbone," the children's literary TV series. He has been an editorial reader for the University Press of Virginia, the Free Press, the University of Missouri Press, The University of Illinois Press, SUNY Press, Behavior and Brain Studies, Mosaic, and the University of Pennsylvania Press.

 

[the Shotokan symbol]

Karate...

He is a black belt (second degree) in the Shotokan school of Karate, and is a senior instructor in the martial arts. Fred practices Shotokan regularly and often comes home with many bruises and sore spots. It is no wonder his son, Ben, didn't take up his interest in karate after attending a couple lessons, pursuing sports like tennis and basketball instead.

 

Translation...

As a translator he has been working for the last few years with a Hungarian colleague, Zsuzsanna Ozsváth, on a major collection of translations of the great Hungarian Jewish poet Miklós Radnóti, who perished in the Holocaust. This work involves unusual methods and theories of translation; the originals, which are in very strict Magyar meters, are rendered into the identical metrical forms in English, and the translation process is largely oral. The result has been praised for its accuracy and feeling by the Hungarian literary establishment, and greeted on its publication by critical acclaim.

 

Honors...

He is a winner of the Milan Fust Prize (Hungary's highest literary honor), the Levinson Poetry Prize (awarded by Poetry), the PEN Dallas Chapter Golden Pen Award, the Missouri Review essay prize, and several other literary, artistic and academic honors, and has participated in literary and TV projects that have respectively won a Benjamin Franklin Book Award and an Emmy.

 

Current Projects...

Turner is presently at work (with Zsuzsanna Ozsváth) on a collection of translations of the Hungarian poet Attila Jozsef, a new collection of poetry, entitled Hadean Eclogues, and Love and Money: Shakespeare's Twenty-first Century Economics.

...FT End.

 

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