As each new semester unfolds, Herbert Marks’ students steadily grow in their appreciation of his commitment to poetry and literature, and to biblical reading and writing. With his guidance, they dismantle and reassemble sentences and paragraphs; circulate and move among words; inhabit texts; negotiate meanings, images and allusions; and balance sound against sense.
Possessing an expertise that ranges from biblical studies to medieval Italian masters to the modern novel and 20th-century poets—with several significant stops in between—Marks commands an intellectual breadth and passion that challenge and inspire.
In his 18 years at IU, he has created five new courses in biblical studies; developed 18 courses under existing course numbers that include such topics as Literature and Psychoanalysis, Blake and the Bible, Dante and Medieval Theories of Language, and the Modern Elegy; and wholly revamped eight existing courses.
At the same time, he has shown a willingness to serve on dissertation committees with wide-ranging topics and to guide students through independent reading courses—on the average of four or five per year. He approaches each project with his characteristic commitment to one-on-one conferences and extensive responses to written work.
Currently, Marks is working on a new edition of the Hebrew Bible in English, with full commentary, to be published by W. W. Norton in 2004. The work is expected to have a major impact on the teaching of the Bible in college classrooms throughout the English-speaking world.
In Marks’s dedication to teaching and his passion for literature, countless students have found the inspiration to devote their intellectual lives to the exploration of language. “Marks is a naturally compelling teacher,” said Tamara Pollack, a graduate student in the Department of French and Italian at IU, “with that rare ability to communicate his own passion for literature in a way that sparks an answering flame in others. Each class always held at least one great thrill of discovery, something one looked forward to beforehand and mused over long afterwards.”