Quentin Guild Kraft was born in Hyannis, Massachusetts, graduated from Brown University, and then earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at Duke University. He began his teaching career at Denison in 1961, where his emphasis was English literature, in particular the novel. Former students also remember his engaging classes in literary criticism and theory.
His publications appeared in noted journals, among them College English, Criticism, The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation and American Literature. At the time of his retirement in 1997, Kraft recalled, “I think the best single piece I have done is an essay titled ‘Toward a Critical Renewal: At the Corner of Camus and Bloom Streets,’ first published in College English, Jan. 1992, then re-published in Beyond Poststructuralism.” Another major project was a series of essays on the beginnings of the English novel.
Kraft was a Robert C. Good Faculty Fellow and received numerous Denison research grants. He received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to attend a yearlong seminar at the University of Virginia during the 1979-1980 academic year.
Looking back over his time at Denison, Kraft commented that the highlight was during the protests of the late ’60s and early ’70s. “It was a time of great idealism,” he wrote. “[A] time, moreover, when, because of that idealism, the classroom spilled out into the world. … Students demanded that we discuss, and show, how what we did in the classroom was relevant to the world and life outside. Of course, that demand sometimes made classes difficult. But it also made them challenging and exciting.”
He added, “[Those] demands and challenges initiated the changes through which the work of women and minorities began to receive a fuller and more just hearing in individual courses and in the curriculum as a whole.”
True to his New England upbringing, he was a devoted Boston Red Sox and Celtics fan. He was a diehard and dedicated golfer and tennis player. But his love for running set him free. “I ran many races, including four full marathons.” He once said that through running he had found a symbiotic comfort zone where his academic and athletic worlds merged. Kraft also had a passion for music, from Bach to Brubeck, Mozart to Marsalis. Music was ever-present in his home.
A quiet, introspective man, Quentin enjoyed exploring meaning in the world around him. At age 70, he began writing poetry about things he observed, including creatures living in his backyard (“Chipmunk I” and “Chipmunk II”), and encounters on campus walks (“Dog Walk”). The title for his collection of poems is On Getting Too Damn’d Old: Free Speech Poems for Free Readers.
He is survived by Ellen Craig Kraft, his wife of 63 years, his son Kevin, and daughter-in-law Lorraine Kraft.