Samuel Hynes, Professor Whose Books Taught Lessons of War, Dies at 94


“Criticism is, as we have seen, not a way of reading and explaining literature, but a way of rewriting it,” he observed in “Flights of Passage.” “This confuses writers, who tend to think that critics are people competent to give credible and sensible interpretations of the content and intention of their work.”

University teachers, he added, are employed to “contest the prevailing paradigmatic hegemonies, to prove the absence of the author, the death of the subject, the incongruity of the reader, and also to invigilate examinations when required.”

CreditPenguin Random House

Samuel Lynn Hynes Jr. was born on Aug. 29, 1925, in Chicago and grew up in Minneapolis. His mother, Barbara (Turner) Hynes, died when he was 5. During the Depression, Samuel Sr., seeking work, took Sam and his brother, Charles, across the country before returning to Chicago for a factory job on the South Side.

“All my working life I’ve had two vocations — flying and professing,” Professor Hynes once wrote.

Watching others fly came first. As a young boy, arms outstretched, he would circle schoolmates in the playground, emulating World War I aces. He would also ride his bicycle to the local airport and gape at the rudimentary planes.

“I was not, even in imagination, a pilot,” he wrote in his memoir, “but I was a true believer in the religion of flight.”

He graduated from high school at 16 and in 1942 entered the University of Minnesota, where he studied under the novelist Robert Penn Warren. He signed up for the Navy flight program there and was called up the next spring. Commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marines, he served in a Marine torpedo bombing squadron in the Caroline Islands and Okinawa. He was discharged as a major.

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