Queer Places:
Yale University (Ivy League), 38 Hillhouse Ave, New Haven, CT 06520
Iowa Writers' Workshop, Iowa City, IA 52245
514 N School Ln, Lancaster, PA 17603

Bruce Kellner (March 17, 1930 - February 16, 2019) was a scholar and author of works on Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance; he was professor of English at Coe College, 1956-1960.

Bruce Kellner was born March 17, 1930 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and Kansas City, Missouri. He served in the United States Navy for four years, 1951-1954. He graduated from Colorado College (BA) in 1955 and from The Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa (MFA) in 1958. He taught at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1956-1960), and at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York (1960-1969), where he was also director of theater activities and staged over thirty productions. He taught at Millersville University from 1969 until his retirement as Professor Emeritus of English in December 1991.

He taught primarily Shakespeare, poetry, and a course he devised and taught regularly titled “Literary Research and Analysis,” which instructed students in how to avoid plagiarism, how to construct a Ciceronian essay, and the fundamentals of bibliography.

With his colleague, Hazel Jackson, in the Millersville English department, he established African American literature as a permanent offering in the English department curriculum, and with his colleague, Dennis Downey, in Millersville history department, he established an annual Black History Month conference to which he invited several celebrated African American scholars.

In Millersville’s exchange program with Iran in 1974, which brought 17 special education teachers to campus for training, he taught English as a Second Language (ESL). In 1986, he again taught ESL to international students during a semester at Warnborough College in England.

In 1968, Bruce Kellner published his first book, Carl Van Vechten and the Irreverent Decades, a biography of the American writer and photographer who had been his friend and mentor. During Kellner’s tenure at Millersville, he published seven other books, including The Last Dandy, a biography of American artist Ralph Barton; Content With The Example, a reference work on the life and writings of Gertrude Stein; a bio-bibliography of American novelist, Donald Windham, and a major research work, The Harlem Renaissance, A Historical Dictionary for the Era; also, Van Vechten’s bibliography and editions of his writings about black arts and letters.

by Carl Van Vechten

In retirement, he edited the letters of American artist Charles Demuth for publication; also Carl Van Vechten’s daybooks as The Splendid Drunken Twenties and Van Vechten’s musical criticism as Caruso’s Mustache Off; also Kiss Me Again, a memoir of several women who were influential on his life; and What’s For Dinner, an anecdotal cookbook. He edited The Major Works of Gertrude Stein in 16 volumes for publication in Japan. At the age of 78, he published his first novel, Winter Ridge; a second novel followed in 2010, The Prettiest Girls in Euphoria, Kansas; and a third novel, The Honesties of Love, in 2012. He wrote the novels neither to sell nor to market but to see if he could write fiction. Some of his work has been translated into French, German, Japanese, and Spanish.

Bruce Kellner wrote three one-character plays, all of which were produced, Staying On Alone (about Alice B. Toklas), starring Julie Harris at the Orleans Theater on Cape Cod; Kiss Me Again (about operetta star Fritzi Scheff), and Swimming on Concrete (about poet Vassar Miller) by the Theater of the Seventh Sister. He designed sets for the Lancaster Opera Company production of The Ballad of Baby Doe, and he acted in several productions of the Actors Company of Pennsylvania and the Performing Arts Workshop. Beginning in 2007 he compiled the material and directed local actors, in the first of nine annual programs on literary figures and kindred subjects for the Lancaster Literary Guild as recruitment “friendraisers” for members and their guests.

Also in retirement, he lectured widely at a number of museums, libraries, and other scholarly institutions, including the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian, Marquette University, Yale University, New York University, Chatauqua, New York, Universite de la Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, the University of Vienna, the College of William and Mary, Northwest College, Iowa, Kirkwood College and Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Muscarelle Museum in Charleston, the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the City College of New York, Lincoln University, West Chester University, Elizabethtown College, and locally on several occasions for Quest and Clio.

For 20 years Bruce Kellner was a member of Countermeasure, a quartet of working poets (Robert Desch, Mary Jean Irion, and Priscilla Oppenheimer were the other members) that gave occasional readings at Lebanon Valley College, The Independent Eye, Lawrenceville Academy and for various local organizations. Kellner never had the courage, he claimed, to send out his poems for publication. But one of them is incised on a marble tombstone in the Heller Church yard in New Holland, Pennsylvania.

In 1998 Kellner and his friend, Franklin & Marshall classics professor Joel Farber, founded All Kinds Blintzes Press and produced 60 chapbooks during the following decade, in hand-sewn limited editions, of literary and historical subjects, to raise funds for various charitable causes. He was a board member of the Demuth Foundation for twelve years, edited its newsletter for ten years, curated three exhibitions, and twice co-chaired its annual auction. He was a member of the advisory committee to the Harvard African American Encyclopedia and to the Smithsonian’s initial African American Museum Project. Last but not least, for two years he served as President of the P.T.A. for Buchanan Elementary School.

Kellner was Successor Trustee of the Carl Van Vechten Trust and raised nearly over $100,000.00 from reproductions of Van Vechten’s photographs for the Endowment Fund of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters in the Beinecke Library at Yale University. As Literary Trustee for his friend, novelist Donald Windham, he co-founded the Donald Windham-Sandy Campbell Fund, which grants annual awards of $150,000 each to promising or proven writers, through Yale University.

In the Millersville Library’s Special Collections, Kellner established photographic and literary archives in several fields: in the Carl Van Vechten Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters; in his collection of books and artifacts in connection with theater and dance; in the Margaret C. Woodbridge Collection of “Books By a Woman Writt”; and in a substantial archive of material by “Unread, Under-rated, Under-read, Maligned, Forgotten, Ignored, or Unknown Writers.” In 2013, Millersville in turn honored Kellner by adding his name to that of former librarian Esther Whitely to identify the Reading Room for Special Collections in the McNairy Library. The Bruce Kellner-Monadnock annual literary award was named in Kellner’s honor by his former student, poet and editor Rodger Martin. Kellner deposited his published and unpublished papers in Special Collections of the McNairy Library at Millersville.

Bruce Kellner died of complications from Lewy body dementia on Saturday, February 16, 2019 at age 88. He is survived by his wife, Margaret, and his children, Hans Kellner and Kate Wilcox.

My published books:

See my published books