Gary Saul Morson
Gary Saul Morson (born 1948) is an American literary critic and Slavist. He is particularly known for his scholarly work on the great Russian novelists Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin. Morson is Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities at Northwestern University. He was Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania for many years prior to leaving for Illinois.
Gary Saul Morson was born in New York City and attended the Bronx High School of Science. After the high school, Gary Morson was accepted to Yale University. Initially, Morson was interested in physics. However, he ended up graduating with a degree in Russian. “What I liked about physics is that it asked the ultimate questions. I loved how when you look at the world, all this amazing complexity had these very simple rules behind it. Now I believe the opposite — the argument of my favorite writer, Tolstoy, is that the world doesn’t fit any system, because human psychology is so infinitely complex,” Morson says. Morson spent a year at Oxford on a Henry Fellowship. At Oxford, he became friends with Bill Clinton. “A great deal of my pitiful income from those years went to Clinton’s campaign for attorney general of Arkansas,” Morson says. After studying at Oxford, Morson completed his Ph.D. degree at Yale University.
In 1974 he started teaching at the University of Pennsylvania where he later became Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Since 1986 he has been teaching at Northwestern University. His course Introduction to Russian Literature attracts around 500 students – the largest Slavic language class offered in America. Together with Morton Schapiro, President of Northwestern University, he teaches a course called “Economics and the Humanities: Understanding Choice in the Past, Present and Future.”[when?]
Morson is the editor of a scholarly book series titled Studies in Russian Literature and Theory (SRLT) published by Northwestern University Press, which is described as "reflecting trends within the field of Slavic studies over the years . . . providing perspectives on Russian literature from all periods and genres, as well as its place in the broader culture."
Gary Saul Morson lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife Jane. The couple has a daughter named Emily and a son named Alexander.
His critique of literalist translation methods appeared in Commentary in 2010.