Fellman, Michael

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Fellman, Michael

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1943-2012

History

Michael Fellman was Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University, best-known for his work on nineteenth-century American history and the American Civil War period. Fellman taught at SFU from 1969 to 2008. He passed away on June 11, 2012 at age 69.

Fellman was born on February 28, 1943 in Madison, Wisconsin to Sara Dinion Fellman and David Fellman, Vilas Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin. Michael began his university education at Oberlin College, completing his A.B. at the University of Michigan in 1965. He received a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1969 and subsequently moved to Vancouver to join SFU's Department of History as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1974 and Full Professor in 1983. In 2000 he became the Director of the Graduate Liberal Studies program at Harbour Centre (SFU Vancouver). Fellman continued teaching at SFU until his retirement in 2008.

In the 1960s Fellman married fellow academic Anita Clair, and they had two sons, Joshua and Eli. The couple later divorced. On June 21, 1988 Fellman married Santa Aloi, a professor of dance in SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts; the marriage continued until his death. Fellman held dual US-Canadian citizenship, having obtained his Canadian citizenship in the 1990s.

Fellman's research centred on the United States in the nineteenth century, the American Civil War and American culture, with a focus on the topics of war, violence, culture, and personality. He published numerous articles and is the author or co-author of eight published books:

  • The Unbounded Frame: Freedom and Community in Nineteenth-Century American Utopianism (1973)
  • Making Sense of Self: Medical Advice Literature in Late Nineteenth-Century America (1981; with Anita Clair Fellman)
  • Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War (1989)
  • Citizen Sherman: A Life of William T. Sherman (1995)
  • The Making of Robert E. Lee (2001)
  • This Terrible War: The Civil War and Its Aftermath (2002, with Lesley J. Gordon and Daniel E. Sutherland)
  • In the Name of God and Country: Reconsidering Terrorism in American History (2009)
  • Views from the Dark Side of American History (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War) (2011).

Fellman was the recipient of numerous awards and honours. He was Faculty Convocation speaker at SFU in 2006. He received Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada fellowships in 1988-1989, 1990-1993, and 1996-2000. During leaves from SFU Fellman taught at the University of Haifa (Israel) in 1980-81 as Fulbright Professor and at Stanford University in 1992-93 as Visiting Professor. He received fellowships at the Shelby Cullom Davis Centre for Historical Studies at Princeton (1983-84), the Huntington Library (1985, 1991, 1998), and the Stanford Humanities Center (1992-93). His book on Sherman was a New York Times Notable Book of 1995, finalist for the Lincoln Prize, and Honorable Mention for the W.K. Ferguson Prize.

In addition to his scholarly output, Fellman was a regular contributor to the press. He wrote numerous book reviews, analyses of current events, and opinion pieces for various media outlets, including the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, and The Tyee. In honour of his memory, The Tyee and the SFU Department of History established the Michael Fellman Award for Historical Writing in 2012.

Outside the academy, Fellman also served at various times on the boards of a number of organizations: the Deborah Dunn Dance Company, Time Step Productions, Plan B Dance Company, Jewish Family Service Agency, and the College of Psychologists of British Columbia.

"Truly engaged history writing," Fellman wrote in his last work, "is anarchic or at least irreverent. It challenges authority; it is the assertion of freedom of thought against the constraints of received wisdom; it is the individual declaration that one need not be neutralized by the powerful fear of being isolated or derided, that one can find one's own voice."

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