ulian Markels Obituary
Julian (“Bear,” “UB”) Markels, June 24, 1925-July 22, 2021, the oldest child of Alex Markels and Frieda Wolfberg, was raised during the depression years in Chicago’s south side. Those were glad times, shared with his brother Charles and his sister Miriam. Julian served in World War II as a US Army medic, most memorably as one of the liberators of the death camp at Buchen-wald. Upon returning home, he was educated at the Universities of Wisconsin, Chicago, and Minnesota, where he earned his Ph.D. with honors. He then began a long and influential career at Ohio State, joining the Department of English in 1956. He taught there for thirty-six years, serving with distinction as chair of the department from 1976 to 1983. He was a much-beloved teacher at all levels, directed the research of scores of graduate students, and developed many new courses, helping to inaugurate, among other things, successful models of team-teaching. Julian published over two dozen major scholarly articles, in areas ranging from Shakespeare, to American literature, to Marxist political discussions, to literary theory. Among his five books are The Marxian Imagination, Melville and the Politics of Identity, and From Buchenwald to Havana: The Life and Opinions of a Socialist Professor. Among many university duties outside the department, he was a member of the Faculty Council and served for seven years on OSU’s Athletic Council. He was also secretary of the University’s first Diversity Enhancement Committee. Outside the University, Julian was a member of Columbus’s Committee on Racial Equality. During the 1960s and beyond, he was an active participant in nationwide demonstrations supporting Civil Rights and opposing the Vietnam War. He was a major figure, on and off campus, in debates and in counseling uncertain and troubled young people in those rough times. He later became a founding member and first President of Columbus’s North Market Development and continued his scholarly work by editing “King Lear” and helping to direct a major production of that play in Pittsburgh. Julian was a loving father and husband. Survived by his wife, Robin; his children, Alex, Linda, and Rachel; his sister, Miriam; his grandchild, Kristine; and two great-grandchildren, Ingrid and Eva. He will be missed so deeply — in the words of a Shakespeare character he knew well: We “shall not look upon his like again.” Arrangements by COOK & SON-PALLAY FUNERAL HOME.
Published by The Columbus Dispatch from Jul. 25 to Jul. 26, 2021.
From Buchenwald to Havana The Life and Opinions of a Socialist Professor
Cover: “Malecon Sunrise, Havana” by Fabio Sartori. An obsolescent Russian Lada lighting its way into the dawn on Havana’s 4-mile seaside boulevard.
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A boundary-breaking book that moves subtly between genres, from memoir and Bildungsroman to social activism and cultural critique. It has the force of personal experience, the meditative pleasures of a novel, and the commitment of a social activist written by a polymath, brilliant thinker, and thoughtful writer. It offers a complex and masterfully written narrative in which events that exceed conventional historical analysis—Buchenwald; the Cold War; McCarthyism; the civil rights, feminist, and anti-war movements; the Cuban experiment in socialist humanism—are interpreted as a dialectics of history and agency.
The book has a particular poignancy for the present moment in which the task of social change and struggle for a society of equality have become urgent. It is the work of a committed life struggling for a socialist humanism that, as Markels argues, “enables us not just to dream of full lives but also to find ways to live them, by all and for the good of all.” —Teresa Ebert, author of The Task of Cultural Critique
From Buchenwald to Havana is lucid and humane . . . complex, fluid, rich in possibilities . . . learned and wise, and I sure learned a great deal from reading it. And I loved it. It reflects on socialist moments succinctly and it dramatizes a socialism which is attractive and always open to rethinking, It also shows how a person can be honest about pain and mistakes without spending his life only in regret and atonement.—Malcolm Griffith, Emeritus Professor of English, University of Washington
Julian Markels has taken the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” and turned it into a blessing for his readers in this rich and compelling account of his life inside the academy and out. As Markels recounts his personal journey, he gives us insights into significant moments in the history of Ohio State University; Marxist literary criticism and theory; Cuba after Castro; and much more. His is a life well-lived–and well-told. —Jim Phelan, author of Experiencing Fiction: Judgments, Progressions, and the Rhetorical Theory of Narrative