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An utterly absorbing chronicle of the life and times of an esteemed college professor and literary critic and the ivory tower sex scandal that broke him, The Scarlet Professor offers a provocative and unsettling look at American moral fanaticism.
During his thirty-seven years at Smith College, Newton Arvin published groundbreaking studies of Hawthorne, Whitman, Melville, and Longfellow that stand today as models of scholarship and psychological acuity. He cultivated friendships with the likes of Edmund Wilson and Lillian Hellman and became mentor to Truman Capote. A social radical and closeted homosexual, the circumspect Arvin nevertheless survived McCarthyism. But in September 1960 his apartment was raided, and his cache of beefcake erotica was confiscated, plunging him into confusion and despair and provoking his panicked betrayal of several friends. In The Scarlet Professor, Barry Werth has deftly captured the essence of a conflicted man and illuminated a pivotal period in the history of Gay America.
“Perceptive…. Refreshing and instructive…. Barry Werth has told this gifted but unhappy man’s story with sympathy but utterly without sentimentality or special pleading. His research…is thorough and surprising.”–The Washington Post Book World
“Mesmerizingly well-written.”–Andrew Holleran, Out