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Marion Stocking

Born Marion Kingston on June 4, 1922, daughter of William Frank and Louise Schucholz Kingston, she grew up north of Boston, graduating from Melrose High School in 1939, having been one of the founders of the school newspaper, The Imprint. In summers she served as a New Hampshire camp counselor in nature studies, hiking and mountain climbing. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1943 as Phi Beta Kappa with an A.B. in English Composition, magna cum laude.

 

Scholarship

Duke University awarded her Ph.D. in English in 1952 for a dissertation on the Byron/Shelley Circle: Claire Clairmont: A Biographical and Critical Study. Harvard University Press published her edition of The Journals of Claire Clairmont in 1968. She was Contributing Editor to Shelley and His Circle Vol. V, (Harvard, 1974). The NEH supported her overseas scholarship with a Research Fellowship in 1979, and the Johns Hopkins University Press brought out her two-volume The Clairmont Correspondence in 1995, when it was judged "the Best Book in Language and Literature" for that year by the Scholarly Publishers Division of the Association of American Publishers. Among other publications in the Romantic Period she and her husband, David Mackenzie Stocking, discovered, edited and published new Shelley letters in 1980. In the spring of that year Marion was invited to address a joint meeting of the Keats-Shelley Association and the International Byron Society at the British Institute in Albermarle Street, London, where she spoke on "The Mysteries of Claire Clairmont."

When Oxford University Press launched a new edition of the monumental Dictionary of National Biography she was invited to contribute and for it wrote a new biography of Claire Clairmont, "Clairmont, Clara Mary Jane [Claire] (1798-1879), amember of the Shelley-Byron circle." (The list price for the 2004 OxfordDNB is $13,000. Thanks to a generous donor, this essential reference work is in the Beloit College Library.) A lighthearted account of her scholarly career, "Claire, Kairos, and Great Companions," appeared in the Keats-Shelley Journal (2005)—an expanded version of the banquet address she had delivered in 1996 on the occasion of being selected by the association as "Scholar of the Year."

Although the administration was firm in 1954 that she was not being hired as a scholar but to teach and to contribute to the community of the College, Beloit enabled her extensive research by sabbaticals and by flexibility of scheduling. During the years of the three-term calendar, the Stockings found that by taking their usual research year off without pay and distributing it through the inter-sabbatical years, they could teach on alternate terms and—incidentally—buy their permanent home on the Maine coast. Thus, without "publish or perish" pressure, they could achieve major publication without intruding on their time with students.

 

Career Before Beloit College

After teaching GI Bill veterans in the English Department at the University of Maine from 1946 to 1948, Marion received an AAUW research fellowship, stretched over two years, on Shelley circle research in England, France, Germany, Italy, and Austria. In the summer of 1948 she climbed Mount Katahdin and explored by canoe the waterways between the Canadian border and the Penobscot River, the inspiration for her book To the Wilderness, completed in 2007.

Marion joined the English Department at the University of Colorado from 1950-54, during which time she climbed with the Colorado Mountain Club and published in their journal Trail and Timberline. Her growing interest in folk song led to an article there, "I Will Sing You One-O" in 1955, and her interest in regional linguistics produced an article on Maine dialect in the new Colorado Quarterly, an interest expanded to her book I Got the Idear (2007).

 

Environmentalism

As the only woman member of the Boulder Isaak Walton League, she wrote the weekly "Ike Walton's Corner" for the Boulder paper and entered a life-long career as environmental activist, especially through the Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, and the Quoddy Regional Land Trust. While at Colorado, her main concentration was on running the Green and Yampa Rivers and then fighting a threatened dam that would have flooded Dinosaur National Monument.

 

To Beloit

In 1954 Professor Bink Noll, a former Colorado colleague, notified her of an opening to teach the Romantic Period and composition at Beloit College. She applied for and received an appointment as Assistant Professor, despite some hostility to a tenure-track woman in their department from some of the all-male senior faculty. On arriving at Beloit she immediately was welcomed to the board of the Beloit Poetry Journal (then considered a college publication) and was assigned to direct the new Freshman English course, brilliantly designed by her department chair Fred White to inaugurate an interdisciplinary program following the Ford Foundation's year-long study that recommended a radically interdisciplinary curriculum. When in 1964 the College went to a year-round calendar and Freshman English morphed into the three-semester Underclass Common Course (with the infelicitous acronym UCC) she followed David as director from 1967-70.

Marion was active in the creation of the General Honors (interdepartmental) Porter Scholars Program, which she directed in 1961-66. Porter Scholars courses were interdisciplinary, often taught by faculty from two or three divisions. Marion initiated one in the Don Juan legend and, with Professors William Jones in music and Donald Murray in languages, created the "Living Opera" course, with a curriculum centered on each year's offerings by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, which students, faculty, and interested townspeople attended by chartered bus from the campus. Popular Porter Scholars courses became absorbed into various departments when the program changed its General Honors focus. When it authorized student-initiated interdisciplinary majors, Marion directed for Linda Beattie what turned out to be the first undergraduate major in Oral History, a field in which Linda has gone on to publishing distinction.

Marion joined Bink Noll in founding and running the Wisconsin-Minnesota Poetry Circuit, brining national poets to read at campuses in those states. David and Marion were aggressive in brining poets to Beloit. In 1963, for example, they brought W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Galway Kinnell, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Suzanne Gross, enriching Auden's visit with a Festival of Words and Music featuring settings of Auden's work.

In addition Marion was from her first year on the faculty member of Publications Board and the Library Committee, especially happy to be involved in the design of the new library. She also enjoyed work on the Field Term Committee when the year-round calendar enabled it as a graduation requirement, leading to her serving on an analogous committee when, after retirement, she became a Faculty Associate at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor.

 

Marriage and Family  

Marion had met David Stocking at Colorado when he was traveling on a Ford Foundation fellowship to study the nationally expanding creative writing programs. (He had been one of the committee that produced the "Ford Report" for Beloit in 1954 and had during World War II been at Boulder for his U.S. Navy training as a Japanese translator.) When he returned to Beloit in 1955, he was assigned to share an office with Marion, leading to an engagement at Thanksgiving and an elopement to Rockford on the last day of the term. The administration inaugurated a policy that two department colleagues in the same family might not both be tenured. As Marion became an established faculty member, serving in the sixties as president of the AAUP chapter, she achieved what was called de facto tenure, followed in 1976, on President Martha Peterson's change in policy, with actual tenure.

Until David's death on November 21, 1984 (the year of their retirement with Professor Emerita/us status to their home in Lamoine, Maine) the couple collaborated academically, teaching many of the same courses, with David staying more with American literature and Marion with British and Irish. Both served in the full range of administrative positions. David chaired the English Department from 1972, Marion from 1978. Marion headed up Comparative Literature briefly in 1962. Dave preceded Marion as director of the Underclass Common Course in 1966. Both Stockings elected to join the Creative Arts Division during the six-division organization, and David chaired it from 1962-76. They were partners as well in raising his son Fred at the home they built on Turtle Creek, in bird banding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1960, in wilderness canoeing in Maine and the Quetico-Superior, and in literary and historical research.

The Stockings were active in the Ned Hollister Bird Club, for which Marion wrote a history in 1984, and in the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. They participated in research on the Greater Prairie Chicken with Frederick and Francis Hammerstrom in Plainfield Wisconsin, as reported in Marion's article, "A Boomer's Journal" in ThePassenger Pigeon (Fall 2005). For several years they assisted as bird banders at the Bowdoin College Biological Research Station on Kent Island, N.B. On their regular terms in England they were active in the London Natural History Society. In 1976 they founded the Latona Press to publish Chandler Richmond's Beyond the Spring: CordeliaStanwood of Birdsacre and in 1979 became trustees of the Stanwood Wildlife Foundation in Ellsworth, Maine.

The Fall 1976 Beloit Quarterly featured them as "Renaissance People."

 

The Beloit Poetry Journal

David Stocking had been on the board of the Beloit Poetry Journal form its beginning in 1950. In 1955 Marion published there A Folk Song Chapbook, and she and David handled the business and the primary screening of submissions. In 1958, the magazine was attacked for its editorial policy, and with one founder, Professor and Poet-in-Residence Chad Walsh, on Fulbright in Finland and the other, Robin Glauber, in Chicago, the Stockings defended the magazine, which had already developed a significant international reputation. Although the faculty voted to support it, the trustees wisely concluded that since they had never approved it as a College publication it should remain independent. At that same meeting they voted David Stocking tenure.

When in 1984 the Stockings retired to Maine they took the magazine with them, where in 1989 the editorial board reorganized it as a publication of the Beloit Poetry Journal Foundation with Marion as president and editor of the magazine. She addressed the College in March 1992 on "Now It Can Be Told: The Secret History of the BeloitPoetry Journal," in which she recounted the separation of the magazine from the College. A good portion of that talk is in the Beloit Magazine of that year, and another account is in the introduction to her anthology of poems, A Fine Excess: Fifty Years ofthe Beloit Poetry Journal (2000), with a cover by Professor Emeritus Frank Boggs. From the mid-sixties she has written nearly all the reviews for the BPJ. It has survived and flourished to be one of the oldest poetry magazines, recognized for its first or very early acceptance of such poets as Galway Kinnell, A.R. Ammons, Sharon Olds, Sherman Alexie, Charles Bukowski, and Anne Sexton. Best American Poetry 2007 contains five poems from the BPJ. In 2006 the presidency of the foundation and co-editorship of the BPJ fell to Beloit College Professor John Rosenwald. For more on this magazine see www.bpj.org.

 

Her Beloit Teaching

For thirty years Marion was as teacher and administrator a champion of the arts and sciences. Her promotion to Associate Professor came promptly in 1959 and to Professor in 1965. In addition to her Porter Scholars courses, she taught the "Romantic Revolution," Modern British and Irish Literature," and the "Beowulf-to-Virginia-Woolf" introductory course. In composition, she crated a non-fiction course, "Writing toward Publication," which included a springboard into journalism. She also taught "Introduction to Creative Writing" and occasionally an advanced poetry-writing seminar, as well as directing many Independent Study courses and English Honors theses. She also designed and taught senior English major seminars on the Don Juan legend, the poetry of W.B. Yeats, and the Frankenstein/Prometheus theme. She especially enjoyed a Porter Scholars course she called "Roots and Branches" for which she authored a brief handbook—Academic Writing: The Minimum Essentials (1978). This was an elementary writing course with weekly papers based on the readings of the original Freshman English, from the Bhagavad Gita, through Plato and Sophocles to Marx, Darwin, Freud, and Einstein.

As department chair, she drew on a Mellon Foundation grant to poll all past English majors. Publication in 1976 summarizing their subsequent careers revealed the value of a liberal education: most found their true careers within ten years of graduation, careers in a broad range of contemporary fields, many of which were not yet imagined when they were at Beloit.

 

"Retirement" in Maine

After her husband's death, Marion claimed she "flunked retirement," entering into a series of careers, first in maintaining the BPJ as owner, publisher, and editor and working as a Faculty Associate at the College of the Atlantic. In 1993 she began a ten-year career in arts administration, serving first as member and then chair of the Literature Panel for the Maine Arts Commission from 1984-88, then as a member of the Commission from 1993-99. She was immediately appointed chair of a new Community Arts Committee to establish a Community Arts program for the state that would be a model for the nation. One product of that program was her Hancock County CulturalDirectory (1997), which inspired a state-wide flowering of regional directories and programs.

Honors arrived: an honorary Litt.D. from the University of Maine at Fort Kent, where she had supported an honors program similar to Beloit's; the Dangerfield Award from the International Byron Society; a Distinguished Achievement Award from the University of Maine at Machias; culminating with her return to Beloit in 2000 to give the commencement address on "The Arts in the Liberal Arts" and to be honored as a Doctor of Humane Letters.

In her ninth decade, Marion Stocking launched her long-delayed career as a writer of memoirs and critical articles. Two of the latter are substantial essays on contemporary poets: "From A to Infinity: A Half-century of the Poetry of John Haines" in A GradualTwilight (2003) and "Experience through Language: Philip Booth's 'Seventy'," in Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry (2001). The latter was reprinted in Poets &Writers Magazine (March/April 2001). Her review essays on new poetry continue to appear quarterly in the BPJ. In addition to books and articles mentioned earlier she has "From Bunker Hill to Baghdad: One Woman's Wars" accepted to appear in the NorthDakota Quarterly.

Marion Stocking enjoys her work, enjoys living next door to Fred Stocking and his wife Anne and hearing that their son Andy is enthusiastic about Beloit, where he is deeply engaged in the Beloit Science Fiction and Fantasy Club. A sidebar on BSSFC accompanies Marion's memoir of alternative theater at Beloit in the sixties, "When Theatre Went Underground" in Beloit College Magazine (Spring 2006). She continues her birding and canoeing and is more involved than ever in protection of wild lands. She gets along happily without television, web-access, or most electronic gadgets, but manages to stay in contact with about eighty of her former students, several of whom are virtually members of the family. Although she resigned as president of the Beloit Poetry Journal Foundation and, after fifty years, as editor of the journal, she continues as reviewer and in charge of over eighty literary magazines on exchange, thus keeping close to the developing world of international poetry and enjoying quarterly junkets to the magazine's new home in Farmington, Maine, where she catches up on submissions and participates as she has for fifty-three years in selecting each issue.

1 May 2007

 

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