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date: 25 August 2019

(p. x) Albert C. Labriola, 1939–2009: A Tribute

(p. x) Albert C. Labriola, 1939–2009: A Tribute

On March 11, 2009, Albert C. Labriola died suddenly and unexpectedly. For those who knew him personally and worked closely with him, the shock of his passing is be especially acute. His contributions as a scholar are widely acknowledged. He assumed editorship of such crucial and demanding projects as the Milton Variorum Commentary and the Songs and Sonets volume of the Donne Variorum. From 1990 until his death, he was editor of Milton Studies, the premier annual in the field. During his tenure as editor of Milton Studies, he supplemented this annual with such co-edited volumes as The Miltonic Samson, John Milton: The Writer in His Works, Paradise Regained in Context, and Milton and Historicism. At the same time, he became general editor of the Medieval and Renaissance Literary Studies series published by Duquesne University Press, a series that, with his guidance, has become a major force in the discipline. From 1974 until his passing, he held the office of secretary of the Milton Society of America and editor of its annual bulletin. In this capacity, he helped to oversee and to coordinate the activities of a truly international organization, one that has been a focal point for scholarly exchange for over sixty years. Each of these undertakings involved an ability to devote oneself to the needs and expectations characteristic of that particular calling. Each also required a great deal of time and labor, an understanding of what the job entailed, and the ability to work well with an entire range of individuals. As a result of his efforts, Professor Labriola proved himself indispensable to the scholarly community. Among the many awards he received during his distinguished career was one he valued most—and with characteristic humility felt himself least qualified to receive—that of being named Honored Scholar of the Milton Society of America in 2000. This one sign of recognition represents for the international community of Miltonists the highest goal to which one can aspire.

Professor Labriola's accomplishments extend well beyond his role as editor of commentaries and as coordinator of a press series. The author of over forty notable essays in major periodicals between 1970 and 2009, he produced an imposing body of work that reflects the immense range of his interests. These include not just sixteenth and seventeenth century writers such as Shakespeare, Donne, Crashaw, and Milton, but medieval and modern figures extending from Chaucer, Beckett, and Golding. Crucial to Professor Labriola's scholarly interest was the bearing of (p. xi) Christian iconography on the literary arts. Here, a series of seminal studies suggest how important iconography was not only to his work on Milton but to his understanding of the Christian world view. Among his essays in this venue, one discovers pivotal articles that focus on the typological and iconic milieu of the Christocentric imagination. One thinks of such studies as “The Aesthetics of Self-Diminution: Christian Iconography in Paradise Lost,” (1975) and, later in his career, “Iconographic Perspectives on Seventeenth-Century Religious Poetry” (1990) and “The Holy Spirit in Art: The Theological Bearing of Visual Representation” (1996). To these accomplishments must be added his co-authored facsimile editions of two blockbooks, The Bible of the Poor (1990) and The Mirror of Salvation (2002), both of importance to the dissemination of religious belief through iconography. As scholar, teacher, and colleague, Albert C. Labriola will be sorely missed.