J. Kent Clark Oral History Interview with Shelley Erwin [sound recording]
- Other: 2016 February 17
An interview in three sessions, January-February 1989, with J. Kent Clark, emeritus professor of literature. Professor Clark, a specialist in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English politics and literature, received his BA at Brigham Young University in 1939 and his PhD at Stanford. In this interview, he discusses his Mormon background in Utah and his early interest in musical comedy. Graduate school at Stanford was interrupted by World War II; he eventually finished his dissertation (on Jonathan Swift) and received his PhD in 1950, by which time he had already joined Caltech's Humanities Division (1947) as an English instructor. He recalls the intellectual character of the division in the late forties under the chairmanship of Clinton Judy and the high caliber of the literature and history courses. Recollections of colleagues Harvey Eagleson, Roger Stanton, George McMinn, Beach Langston, William Huse, Hallett Smith. He talks about the extremely popular musical comedies he wrote and produced with Elliot Davis on campus for many years, beginning in 1954. Recollections of Caltech president Lee DuBridge and of the changes in the late 1960s as the division became the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences; greater emphasis on research and specialization, as opposed to teaching and survey courses. Professor Clark also recalls his stint as Caltech's "culture czar" and the fate of the arts program instituted in the late sixties. He discusses the admission of women (1970) and the Jenijoy La Belle tenure case, and he concludes with a discussion of his work on biographies of the late-seventeenth-century figures (and brothers) Goodwin and Thomas Wharton.