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In Memoriam: James L. Rosier (1932-92)

A Remembrance by Craig Williamson, Swarthmore College

James L. Rosier, Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, died suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep on September 7, 1992, in his home in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Jim was a distinguished scholar and teacher of Old English. He will be sorely missed by his colleagues, students, and friends.

Jim Rosier was born in Chicago in 1932 and attended Stanford University where he received both the BA. in English Literature in 1953 and a Ph.D. in English Literature and Germanic Philology in 1957. He also received a diploma in Germanic and Romance Philology from the Freie Universität of Berlin in 1957. He first taught at Cornell University from 1957-61, then spent two years at the University of Michigan where he was Assistant Professor and Assistant Editor of the Middle English Dictionary, working on the letters G and H. He then joined the University of Pennsylvania in 1963, where he spent the rest of his teaching career, except for a brief stint as Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Chicago in 1965. He became Professor of English at Penn in 1968.

Jim Rosier's teaching and research interests focused mainly on Old English, though he also taught and wrote about Middle English and the language and literature of the Renaissance. His edition of The Vitellius Psalter was published by Cornell University Press in 1962. Also in that year he co-edited with Jackson J. Campbell an edition of Poems in Old English for Harper and Row. He edited and contributed to Philological Essays, a Festschrift for Herbert D. Meritt, in 1970 (The Hague), and in 1972 co-edited with A.H. Marckwardt a teaching edition, Old English Language and Literature (Norton). His edition of Aldhelm: the Poetic Works, co-edited with Michael Lapidge was published in 1985 and reissued in 1992 (Cambridge). He also worked on the 8th edition of The Norton Reader. His many articles appeared in such journals as PMLA, RES, NM, and Anglia, among others.

Jim Rosier's awards included fellowships and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the American Philosophical Society; he was a Guggenhiem Fellow in 1964. He was elected a Member of the Senior Common Room at University College at Oxford in 1961. He was both Secretary and Chair of the Old English Group of the MLA; and Vice-President and President of The Dictionary Society of North America. He was editorial consultant for a number of prominent journals. Last but not least, he was a fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Jim's teaching was primarily in the field of Old English language and literature, but he also taught and supervised some thirty dissertations, including many in other fields.

Jim Rosier is remembered by all who knew and loved him as a first-rate scholar, a fine teacher, and a great gardener. Jim loved the old soil of earth and language. He invited his students and friends to his home in Swarthmore where he would discuss Cynewulf and Clematis while laying on the spread of a great meadhall table. Jim taught as he gardened. He knew how to inspire and nurture without controlling.

Jim is survived in his immediate family by his wife Kay, his daughters, Jessica and Meredith, and his son Paul. A memorial was held for him in the Lessing Rosenwald Gallery of Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania on October 1, at which time his colleagues, students, and friends gave heartfelt remembrances of him.

OEN 26.1 (1992): 15.

Doctoral Dissertations Chaired


Patrick P. O’Neill "The Old-English Prose Psalms of the Paris Psalter"


James Andres "Negative Indirection in Anglo-Saxon Poetry, Exclusive of Beowulf"
William C. Hale "An Edition of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge MS 214"


Ann B. Gardiner "Narrative Technique and Verbal Style in Percevals Saga: A Comparative Study of the Old Norse vErsion of Chretien De Troyes' Perceval"
Susan Hilligoss "Conventional Style in Middle English Tail-Rhyme Romance "


Dana Ricciardi "Critical Edition of Four Poetic Fragments in Old and Middle English "


Katherine O’Keeffe "The Book of Genesis in Anglo-Saxon England"


Alan C Lupack "Structure and Tradition in the Poems of the Alliterative Revival "


Marie J. Hertzig "The Continuity of Middle English Texts: Early Modern Recension and Reading of Certain Middle English Texts"
Craig Williamson "Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book: A Critical Edition"


Diane Purdy Lichstein "The Stylistic Backgrounds of Piers Plowman"


Celia Bidwell Diamond "Alliterative Figurations, Syntax, and Meaning in Old Middle English Poetry "
John Richard Stracke "The Vocabulary of the Lambeth Psalter Glosses"


Norma Joyce Engberg "A Study of Late Ninth Century Old English Word Order Based on Comparison of Selected Prose Texts "
Sarah S Getty "An Edition, with Commentary, of the Latin/Anglo-Saxon Liber Scintillarum"
Elizabeth M Kist "The Stylistic Development of John Donne's Sermons"
Clarence Steinberg "Some Medieval Traditions of Etymological Characterization"


Thomas D. Absher "Metamorphosis in John Lyly's Plays"
Helen Lutton Cohen "Studies in the Structure of Selected Old English Poems"
David O. Frantz "Concepts of Concupiscence in English Renaissance Literature"


Ann T. Matonis "Sir Gawain and the Green knight: Characterization and Structural Motifs"