Memorial service on Jan. 25 for English scholar Samuel See

A memorial service for Samuel See, an assistant professor of English who passed away last November, will be held on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. in Battell Chapel, 400 College St.

See joined the Department of English in 2009 and held secondary appointments in the American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies programs. A Whitney Humanities Center fellow, a Yale diversity recruitment coordinator, and a member of the LGBT studies faculty committee, See was known among his colleagues and students for his intelligence, enthusiasm, and generosity.

“From the minute I met Sam I knew, I knew for absolute certain, he was the smartest person I had ever met,” said Kathryn Lofton, professor of Religious Studies and American Studies and chair of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies. “Sam could see in a detail an entire universe. He could see so much in people.”

See’s teaching interests included English and American modernist literature, sexuality studies, queer theory, African-American literature, and the Harlem Renaissance. According to colleagues, he admired the works of Hart Crane, H.D., Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett, Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, and Langston Hughes. 

“Sam wrote brilliantly about Hughes,” said Langdon Hammer, chair of the English department (fall 2013), adding that as a teacher, “Sam was an acute, tenacious reader and a patient leader of discussion, who held high expectations for himself, his students, and his colleagues — which might have been intimidating if he wasn't also very funny and ready to laugh.”

Born in 1979, See grew up in Bakersfield, California, in the heart of farm country in the San Joaquin Valley. He graduated from California State University-Bakersfield, in 2001, and earned a master’s degree in English at both CSU-Bakersfield (2002) and the University of California-Los Angeles (2005), where he was recognized as a gifted writer and poet. He received his doctorate in English at UCLA in 2009.

The recipient of numerous awards and honors, See won the Fred Weld Herman Memorial Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 2004, given for the best poem or group of poems by a UCLA student. That same year he was also nominated for the UC Poet Laureate Award.

While a teaching fellow at UCLA, See received a travel grant to conduct research at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the New York Public Library’s Berg collection of American and English literature. During his time at UCLA, he also mentored first-year English graduate students and volunteered at reading marathons.

“Sam embodied the reasons one loves to teach,” said Stephen Yenser, Distinguished Professor and director of creative writing in the Department of English at UCLA. “A warm, generous man with a fine sense of humor, smart as a whip, but self-effacing and truly humble, he learned enthusiastically from everything he studied and incited curiosity and enthusiasm in others, his peers, and his teachers, who were soon to be his colleagues.”

See authored several articles and essays for academic publications, including “Modernism/modernity” and “English Literary History” (John Hopkins University Press); “GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies” (Duke University Press); and “PMLA” (Modern Language Association). He also wrote entries on John Hollander, J. D. McClatchy, and Marie Ponsot, among others, for the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry.

At the time of his death, he was working on his first book project, “Queer Natures: Feeling Degenerate in Literary Modernism; it remains unfinished.

See is survived by his husband, Sunder Ganglani; parents, Ann Sturdivant and Tom See; brothers, Jon Bloom and Darin See; and sister, Kelly Flanagan.

Students, colleagues, and friends of See’s are invited to submit tributes, anecdotes, or other statements in his honor to english@yale.edu.

Lofton fondly remembers a series of 34 pictures See took with his phone and sent to her. “Each photo records some lavish bit of nature he saw in the world,” she recalled. “Every time I walk in the world, I see him, everywhere.”