Remembering Jonathan Crewe, Renowned Scholar of Renaissance Literature

A prolific scholar and gifted teacher who served as the inaugural director of the Leslie Center for the Humanities, Jonathan Crewe died on Oct. 9. 

Jonathan Crewe, the Leon D. Black Professor Emeritus of Shakespearian Studies and inaugural director of the Leslie Center for the Humanities, died on Sunday, Oct. 9. He was 81. 

A gifted and prolific scholar of Renaissance literature, Crewe served on the Dartmouth faculty from 1990 to 2015. When Crewe was first recruited to Dartmouth, the literary critic Stanley Fish recommended him by stating, "in every aspect of department life—as a teacher, as a committee member, as an adviser, as a cohering presence—he is the kind of person who is quickly regarded as indispensable." Another leading scholar praised Crewe "one of the most original literary theorists of his generation to be working with the literature of the English Renaissance."

"In his 25 years on our faculty, Jonathan lived up to the reputation that preceded him," Dean Elizabeth Smith said in a message to the Dartmouth community. "At the time of his appointment to the Leon D. Black Professorship, Jonathan was described as 'one of the most distinguished colleagues on our faculty.'"

Born on July 12, 1941, in South Africa, Crewe earned a master's degree. from the University of Natal before moving to the United States in 1974. He completed his PhD in English at the University of California, Berkeley, before taking an appointment at Johns Hopkins University. After rising to the rank of associate professor, Crewe left for the University of Tulsa in 1987 to serve as a full professor. 

Arriving at Dartmouth in 1990, Crewe continued his impressive academic career. In 1997 he was named the Willard Professor of English and Comparative Literature. From 1999 to 2007, he also served as the inaugural director of the Leslie Center. Crewe was appointed the Leon D. Black Professor of Shakespearian Studies in 2008 for his distinguished record of scholarship and teaching in the field of Renaissance studies. 

Crewe was responsible for New Pelican editions of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, Henry VIII, and the Narrative Poems (1999–2001). These were incorporated into The Complete Pelican Shakespeare in 2002. He was also the author of In the Middle of Nowhere: J.M. Coetzee in South Africa (2015), Trials of Authorship: Anterior Forms and Poetic Reconstruction from Wyatt to Shakespeare (1990), in addition to three other books and edited volumes. Alongside his books, he published more than 30 articles and presented over 40 papers. 

Crewe possessed a formidable mind and generous spirit. Students found his teaching "exciting and demanding" and "rich and far-ranging." Outside of the classroom, Crewe's erudition and service benefited our community both through his long tenure as the director of the Leslie Center and through two humanities conferences, "Global Humanities, 2000" and "The Liberal Education: Dead or Alive" (2003–04). He also served as chair of the Dartmouth Editorial Board (2002–06), member and vice chair of the Committee on Priorities (1997–2000, 2004), director of the graduate program in Comparative Literature (1996–98), chair of the Committee on Instruction (1995–97), and chair of a variety of search committees in English, theater, and Spanish and Portuguese.