Eric Wollencott Barnes (1907-1962)

Eric W. Barnes, c.1950

Eric Wollencott Barnes was born in 1907 in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he grew up and attended school. He enrolled in the University of California Los Angeles in 1925, remaining there for only one year. Barnes then went to study abroad in France at L’Ecole des Sciences Politiques where he graduated in 1930. He received a diplome d’etudes superieures from the University of Paris in 1931, followed by a fellowship in Sorbonne, before returning to teach at the University of Paris in 1932.

In 1930 Barnes enlisted in the United States Foreign Service and was appointed Vice Consul at Bucharest, Romania, and then in Sofia, Bulgaria. Returning to the U.S. in the mid 1930s he pursued an acting career in New York. He appeared in several plays under the stage name Eric Wollencott.

In 1938, he took a position at Russell Sage College in Troy, New York. He quickly rose in the ranks to become an associate professor and chair of the English department. In 1940, he received his doctor of letters degree from the University of Paris. Barnes eventually became a full professor in 1945. In World War II he served as a civilian consultant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as a military information officer with the O.S.S. in Algiers.

After the war, Barnes began his career at Dickinson College as the Thomas Beaver Professor of English Literature and chair of the department in the fall of 1946. In his seven years at the College he was among the founders of the Committee on Academic Standards and founded the Mermaid Players, as well as being credited with drastically improving the English department. He was also involved with the Advisory Committee on Comparative Literature of the National Council of Teachers of English, the American Palestine Commission, Zeta Psi Fraternity, and the Players of New York.

Barnes left Dickinson officially in 1953 to head the Institution of American Studies at the Free University of Berlin, where he had been since 1951. He remained there with his wife, Margaret, and his two sons, Eric Marvin (1942-67) and Charles, until 1957, when he returned to the U.S. to teach at the Loomis School in Windsor, Connecticut. He was an accomplished man, writing many academic works in both French and English, including an acclaimed series of children's histories for grade school students. Eric Barnes died in Boston in 1962.

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Dickinson College Archives
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