David V. Erdman

David V. Erdman (November 4, 1911 in Omaha, NE October 14, 2001[1]) was an American literary critic, editor, and Professor Emeritus of English at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Professor Erdman established his reputation as a William Blake scholar.

Early life and education

Erdman was born on November 4, 1911 in Omaha, Nebraska to Carl Morris and Myrtle (Vorse) Erdman. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Carleton College in 1933. He then preceded to Princeton University where he received a Ph.D. in 1936. After graduating from Princeton he married Virginia Bohan in 1937.[1]

Academic career

Throughout his career in academia Erdman held a number of university positions. After graduating from Princeton in 1936, he became a professor of English at the Agriculture, Mechanical and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Monticello). He held this position until the next year when he became an instructor of English at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He stayed at Madison from 1937 until 1941. For the next year, he was an instructor in English at Olivet College, Olivet, MI. During the 1942-43 academic year, he was an assistant professor at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. For the next three years, he did not hold position at a university, but rather worked for the United Auto Workers-Congress of Industrial Organizations (UAW-CIO) in Detroit, MI as an editor in the education department, from 1943 until 1946. In 1948, he returned to the academy as an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, a position he held until 1954. In 1968, Erdman became a professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and began editing publications for the New York Public Library, New York, NY.[1]

During his career he was also member of multiple scholarly societies, including Modern Language Association of America, Keats-Shelley Association, Shaw Society, and the English Institute (of which he was chair in 1960).[1]


Erdman's Blake: Prophet Against Empire was published in 1954. Jacob Bronowski stated that: "Blake: Prophet Against Empire is the most important book that has been written about Blake... it expounded the view of Blake as a poet of social vision and human protest".[2]

Erdman's edition of Blake's writings (with critical commentary by Harold Bloom) replaced the earlier edition by Sir Geoffrey Keynes as the standard reference within scholarship and has dominated since. Beyond his contributions to the poetic scholarship, with the publication of his ground-breaking "The Illuminated Blake," Erdman became the first Blake scholar to interpret Blake's illuminations and their interaction with Blake's poetry.


Erdman, as a high-profile Blake scholar, may have influenced a number of other scholars. For example, Linda Freeman attributes that radical theologian Thomas J.J. Altizer's readings of Blake to time working with Erdman at Stonybrook.[3]

His papers are held by the special collections at the University of Illinois.[4] Additionally, materials from a memorial service are available at the collection at Stony Brook University.[5]


Erdman was a prolific scholar producing over sixty articles in professional journals. Additionally, Erdman wrote or edited the following monographs:[1]

As Author
As editor


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "David V. Erdman". Contemporary Authors Online. Literature Resource Center. Gale. 2002-05-24. ISBN 978-0-7876-3995-2. Accessed via Gale Cengage Learning, August 3, 2013. Gale Document number H1000029614.
  2. Shivashankar Mishra , Rise of William Blake, (Mittal Publications, 1995), ISBN 81-7099-242-7, Page 148
  3. Freeman, Linda (2011). "Tom Altizer and William Blake: The Apocalypse of Belief" (PDF). Literature and Theology: 1–12. doi:10.1093/litthe/frq070.
  4. "David Erdman papers (Erdman 1), 1930-1990". University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
  5. "Stony Brook University Faculty Collections - Record Group 64". Collections and Finding Aids. Stony Brook University. Retrieved September 3, 2013.

External links

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