Zack Bowen 1934-2010 by jjqblog
April 14, 2010, 9:49 PM
Filed under: People

Photo courtesy of Fritz Senn.

Zack Bowen, of the great Joyce scholars of the last century, died last week in Miami.  The founding editor of both the James Joyce Literary Supplement and the Florida James Joyce Series, he built some of the key scholarly and pedagogical institutions of what became the “Joyce industry.”  His lively wit was known to us all as was a booming voice that could be heard ringing out in serious debate, deep laughter, and, of course, striking song.  Memorial pieces have already begun to appear around the web, including a moving tribute by Michael O’Shea on Facebook and a special notice from the James Joyce Newestlatter.  The next issue of JJQ will include a special memorial essay written by Sebastian Knowles, Zack’s successor as Editor at the Florida Joyce series.  We will leave the comments section of this post open for those who might wish to write a few words in memoriam.


9 Comments so far
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Such a major loss–professionally and personally.

Comment by Morris Beja

In November 1965, near the start of my freshman year in college, I visited my high-school girlfriend at Harpur College (SUNY Binghamton), and she took me to her English class. It was taught by a young, large, very enthusiastic man with a gorgeous speaking voice, and all the students obviously loved him and the class. Molly introduced me to him, and I remembered his name, Zack Bowen. Two years later, I wrote an essay on the songs in “Sirens” for a seminar on Joyce that my professor thought might be publishable. On his advice I sent it to the James Joyce Quarterly and received an enthusiastic response from Tom Staley, but as I followed Tom’s advice and checked to see if anyone had already written on the topic, I came across Zack’s brand-new and massive article “Bronzegold Sirensong” in volume 1 of Literary Monographs. By then Zack inadvertently represented two things for me: an ex-girlfriend about whom I didn’t want reminders and the establishment barring my entry into print.
When I started attending Joyce conferences in 1975, Zack of course started representing something else: the warm, collegial, funny man and fellow Joycean that so many of us have known, loved, and learned from. At the Zurich symposium in 1979, when we stayed in the same hotel he became something else as well as he opened up a connection for me with my past. At breakfast one morning with Zack and Lindsey, I mentioned Molly and that Harpur College class, and he told me all about her as a student and also that she now worked as a poet in Delaware, his home state at the time. As the years went by I regularly asked Zack about Molly, but as he moved to Miami and she went to New York City he lost track of her.
Molly Peacock and I reconnected and got married in the early 1990s, and I learned a lot more then about her connection with Zack. He was not only her Freshman English teacher but also her Freshman Advisor, and they remained friends throughout her years at Harpur College. When she got married for the first time, the wedding took place at Zack’s house. I told him about our marriage, and, eager to see her again, he helped to arrange for her to give a poetry reading at the start of one of the mid-1990s Miami J’yce conferences.
Molly and I are very sad to hear about Zack’s death. We will both miss him very much.
Mike Groden

Comment by Michael Groden

To use one of his own favorite phrases, Zack Bowen was one of “nature’s noble gentlemen.” I had the privilege of working for him as a graduate assistant at SUNY–Binghamton and as an assistant professor at the University of Delaware. On those occasions I often wished I had the time to follow Zack around campus with a tape recorder for a year. I was convinced it would provide ample material for the most rollicking comic novel since DON QUIXOTE. But behind Zack’s wit and humor, his critical insights and scholarly works, was a man with a passionate heart who loved to help all the underdogs in life. He and his gracious wife, Lindsey, were always human and humane with everyone they encountered–whether a famous American novelist or an undergraduate student. Zack’s passing is a very sad event, but his life and his personality deserve to be celebrated by all who knew him and all who have an interest in the works of James Joyce.

Comment by Ted Billy

I studied with Zack at UM in the mid-90s. He was an amazing teacher and a wise, funny, blunt, and humane man. He is part of the reason that I am a teacher.

Comment by Andrew Patteson

The passing of my father is devistating, but I also morn for the Joyce society. They have lost a great and wonderful person with the wisdom and humor of a true Joycean. I will remeber my father everytime I hear the name James Joyce, Ulysses, Mary Lavin, or Padric Collum. I will remeber how my father’s eyes lit up as he discussed Joyce with anyone who was in the room. I will remember my father singing all the songs. I have met many individules that stayed in contact with my father over the years and was very pleased to see that eventhough I thought my dad my larger than life many others thought the same. Thank you to all who have been apart of my fathers life.

Comment by Patty Bowen- Babcock

I am terribly sorry to hear of the passing of Professor Bowen. I was fortunate to have been in a few of his classes at Harpur College in 1970-71 and remember fondly an ocassional trip to the campus bar for an impromptu Joyce symposium/sing along! I was almost able to accompany him to Ireland in the summer of 1971 to assist him with some Joyce research however, the trip was canceled due to New York State budgetary cuts. I will miss him very much and pass along condolences to his family and friends.

Comment by Kerry Ladka

I took a class with Zack Bowen at Harpur College / SUNY Binghamton in 1972. He memorably opened my eyes to how much I was missing in my first reading of The Sun Also Rises. I remember too how big his presence was – he filled the large lecture hall with it . . .

Comment by Eytan Fichman

It was Zach’s English 103 at Harpur College that turned me into an English major, and I was lucky enough to have him as my advisor right through undergraduate work and on the the completion of my M.A. He was a bold, charming, energetic, outrageous, funny, compassionate, and loving man…a man no one who crossed his path will ever forget. My favorite memory: drinking scotch into the night at Zach’s place with Joseph Campbell and a room full of graduate students after Campbell had spoken at Binghamton. The tall tales and jokes went well into the night…

Paul Hennessey

Comment by Paul

I’ve been fortunate to have great, inspirational people in my life at various crossroads. Zack was there advising me into an adulthood of caring, compassion, and critical reading that Joyce’s writings demanded on every single page. How I loved “Portrait.” I can still quote the opening paragraphs now 40+ years late. Zack and his instruction helped open my eyes to a new way of seeing the whole world, and I benefitted greatly from the unveiling. I called him a few years ago and had the great honor of telling him, “You told me so,” in response to my career choice. He was so pleased that I had followed his advice. I was, too, needless to say; for I have lived a life of fulfillment and service, not, albeit, with Zack’s humor and grace, but definitely with his compassion and commitment to excellence in scholarship and the camaraderie of knowing.

Comment by Elizabeth Lay January 15, 2012

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