In Memory of Scott Nygren
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Posted by: Aviva Dove-Viebahn
Scott Nygren, Professor of English and Director of the Center for Film and Media Studies at the University of Florida, passed away on March 24th, 2014 at the age of 67. Professor Nygren received his BA from the University of California at Berkeley in 1968 and his PhD from SUNY-Buffalo in 1972. He joined the faculty of the University of Florida in 1990, after previous positions at the University of Toledo and Ithaca College. He also taught and conducted research in France, Japan, Italy, and China. During more than two decades at the University of Florida, Professor Nygren performed exceptional and extensive service at all levels in addition to his teaching and research. Professor Nygren is best known for his book Time Frames: Japanese Cinema and the Unfolding of History (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), and for numerous essays on Asian cinema, ethnographic film, film theory, and experimental cinema, as well as his own work in video and installation art. Professor Nygren is survived by his wife Maureen Turim, also a Professor of English/Film Studies at the University of Florida, and their daughter Mika.
In Memoriam Scott Nygren by David Desser, Emeritus Professor, University of Illinois
Scott Nygren made a tall, striking figure. I remember asking Maureen (Turim, Scott’s wife) how she met Scott and being struck by one comment she made: that they had met at an SCMS in Pittsburgh, when Scott asked Maureen to lunch after hearing her paper, and that Maureen thought he was very handsome. Indeed he was handsome, but what has made me remember this remark was how human it made both Maureen and Scott. Obviously we shared an interest in Japanese cinema, though both Maureen and Scott wrote well beyond this area. Yet it was Japan and Japanese cinema that brought us together in the summer of 1984 in Tokyo. It was a coincidence that we met—I am glad for the opportunity we had both to see some films and just pal around.
My favorite memory of Tokyo and Scott and Maureen is when we went to see Nagisa Oshima in his office. Now anyone who knows Tokyo knows that unless you have explicit directions and perhaps a map (hand-drawn, of course) it is hard to find anything not on a major thoroughfare. We had no map. There are addresses, to be sure, but they aren’t used as in the States, except by the postal service. Naturally, we got a bit lost. We interviewed Oshima, and Maureen and Scott asked piercing questions. The interview was most helpful to my own work.
Scott was a pioneer in what we may generally call “postmodern” criticism. To say that his Time Frames: Japanese Cinema and the Unfolding of History is a brilliant book would be an understatement. What marks it more clearly is that it is the work of a brilliant mind, wrestling with the most timely and important issues of film criticism and theory. In this work and in many of his essays there is something very fierce at play—not that he was snarky about previous scholarship or ungenerous. Rather, that he was formidable in his thinking. He was a genuinely nice person, what we might say, a nice guy, and there are not as many of those as we need. A loss to scholarship—oh yes. But more than that, the world is depleted of someone who can laugh at getting lost on the way to see Oshima, but who could understand and appreciate the fact that this was only too perfect.