Herbert R. Coursen Jr.

Herbert R. Coursen, Jr., longtime Bowdoin English professor and literary scholar, died on December 3, 2011, at his home in Brunswick, Maine.

He was born in Newark, N.J., on March 28, 1932, and graduated from Amherst College in 1954. He served in the Air Force from 1954 to 1958 as a captain and a fighter pilot before earning a master’s degree in English in 1962 from Wesleyan University, where he was a University Fellow. He went on to earn a doctorate in English from the University of Connecticut in 1965. He joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1964 and taught in the English department until 1992. He later taught at the University of Maine in Augusta. A widely published Shakespearean scholar, essayist and poet, he wrote 16 books and numerous articles and reviews on the interpretation and performance of Shakespeare’s works. He also wrote 35 novels and stories, and more than 30 collections of poetry. He maintained a passionate interest in baseball, politics, and writing throughout his life. He had served as Director of Education in Northeastern U.S. for the Shakespeare Globe Centre (London), and was a member of the Marlowe Society, the Shakespeare Association of America, the New England Poet’s Club, and Veterans for Peace. In 1970, he helped lead a weeks-long student strike at Bowdoin in opposition to the Vietnam War. He also staged a protest with fellow professor Henry Bird when the Navy planned to use Popham Beach as the site of a shorefront invasion exercise. An opinion piece he wrote opposing the exercise was published by the New York Times. He enjoyed playing jazz on the cornet, with his partner, Pamela Mount, on the piano. He is survived by three daughters, including Virginia Randolph Coursen, and four grandchildren. He was predeceased by his partner of 20 years, Pamela Mount.

1 Comment Herbert R. Coursen Jr.

  1. Paul Batista

    I recall Herb Coursen so well. In 1966 when I entered Bowdoin as a scholarship student from New Bedford, Massachusetts, he encouraged my interest in literature and writing. He was a member of an English faculty that included stars such as Lawrence S. Hall, Howard Nemerov and Louis Coxe. Herb’s influence on me was such that over the years while practicing law and appearing on tv, I’ve written seven best selling novels. Above all, he was a fun loving man! Paul Batista.


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