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>  News Releases >   2004 >   December

Steven Paul Scher 1936-2004

Posted Dec. 27, 2004

Steven Paul Scher, the Daniel Webster Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College, died on Saturday, December 25 at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire. He was 68. The cause of death was heart failure.

At Dartmouth since 1974, Scher taught literature seminars in the German and Comparative Literature departments, German language at all levels and graduate seminars on German Romanticism, Literature and Music, Experimental Poetry, Comparative Arts, and European Romanticism. Known internationally for his expertise on the relationship between text and music, Scher was an accomplished musician who focused much of his scholarly output on the interplay between literature, language and music.

Born in 1936 in Budapest, Hungary, he studied law at the University of Budapest and music at the Béla Bartók Conservatory of Music before fleeing to Austria during the Hungarian uprising of 1956. While in Austria, he studied medicine at the University of Vienna.

He was admitted to the United States as a political refugee in 1957 and entered Yale University as a sophomore where he majored in German literature, graduating  cum laude in 1960. He received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale in 1960 and 1963, respectively, conducting much of his graduate study at the University of Munich. In 1963 he became a United States citizen. Before coming to Dartmouth, he taught at Yale, Columbia and at Southern Connecticut State College.

Over the course of his 30 year career at Dartmouth, Scher held numerous academic and administrative posts spanning disciplines and departments. In addition to chairing the German department from 1974 to 1980 and from 1993 to 1996, he also directed Foreign Studies Programs in Berlin and Mainz, was a member of the Faculty Research Committee, the Council on Graduate Studies, the Council on Libraries, and the Advisory Committee for the Dickey Endowment for International Understanding, among many others.

He was the author of Verbal Music in German Literature (Yale University Press, 1968) and edited or co-edited eight other books on the relationship between words and music. A collection of his essays, titled Word and Music Studies: Essays on Literature and Music 1967-2004, was issued in his honor this year by Rodolpi Publications in Amsterdam. His articles appeared in numerous scholarly journals. At the time of his death, Scher was working on a book on the German composer and poet E.T.A. Hoffmann, as well as journal articles on subjects ranging from Schubert’s Goethe lieder and Goethe’s Faust to music and its relationship to medicine.

He was a consultant and reader for numerous university presses and scholarly journals, evaluated grant applications for the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, Humboldt-Stiftung and the National Humanities Center. He was widely sought after as a lecturer both in the United States and abroad, speaking on subjects as varied as the composers Mozart and Busoni, the writer Bertolt Brecht, contemporary American opera, word and music studies and humor and satire. 

The recipient of numerous awards, including the Yale Scott Prize in German Literature, the German Government Grant for advanced study and the Humboldt Fellowship, both at the University of Munich, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Modern Language Association Division on Literature and Other Arts, Vice President of the International Association for Word and Music Studies (IAWMS), served on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals and chaired or directed numerous conferences and institutes at Dartmouth, Yale and at universities around the world.

He is survived by his life partner, Ulrike Rainer, an Associate Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College. Private funeral arrangements are being handled by Rand- Wilson of Hanover, New Hampshire. There will be no visiting hours. Contributions in his memory may be made to charitable organizations.

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