Richard Poirier, Active Faculty, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, died on August 15, 2009. Professor Poirier was a member of the English Department.
Richard Poirier came to Rutgers English in the early 1960s, hired by the President and Provost to make Rutgers English a major influence in
American and English studies in the country. He accomplished his mission, and more. Its graduate program earned national attention, and its students now teach in universities across the country. He is remembered by students at Rutgers
College, where he began his career, for the invigorating sense of language he ave them; he brought to Rutgers the values and methods of "close reading" that he had mastered at Harvard, where he worked alongside Reuben Brower in the famous "Hum 6" (Humanities) course there, and where he began his life-long dedication to the poetry of Robert Frost. His work in American literature, beginning with the books THE COMIC SENSE OF HENRY JAMES and A WORLD ELSEWHERE, and continuing with his studies of Norman Mailer, Frost, and especially Emerson, has been seminal to generations of readers. His THE PERFORMING SELF brought him to national attention; its essay on the Beatles and their cultural impact
made him a major American public intellectual.
After leading the Rutgers English department and then its graduate program, he founded the RARITAN REVIEW in 1981, which has become of the nation's leading "small magazines" devoted to discussions of American culture. He edited the journal until his retirement. During this same period, Poirier became a co-founder of the LIBRARY OF AMERICA, which has ensured the permanent "in print" status of classics of American writing. He retired from his position of chair of the Library's editorial board last year.
William Richard Poirier was born in Gloucester, Mass., on Sept. 9, 1925, into a poor “totally non-literary family,” he recalled in an interview with the Rutgers literary magazine Scriblerus. His father was a fisherman. A high school English teacher fostered his interest in reading. After high school, he joined the Army and served in Europe during World War II.
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