Russell A. Fraser, In Memoriam

Peter Wood

Long-time member of the National Association of Scholars, Russell A. Fraser, passed away on March 10 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was 86.

Fraser received a Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth in 1947 and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1950. He had many positions in his academic career, but he was of such extraordinary talent that it was only a matter of time before he found a home. And when he did at the University of Michigan in 1967, he was off and running.

A professor of English, Fraser was a prolific author, having published over twenty books, even far into his 80s, including his 2013 travelogue, Sojourner in Islamic Lands. But his expertise and abiding interest was medieval and renaissance literature, especially Shakespeare. His 1962 work, Shakespeare’s Poetics: In Relation to King Lear, has seen several reprints, most recently in 2013. But his magisterial two-part Drama of the English Renaissance remains his most highly regarded work among scholars of English literature.

Fraser was also an innovative teacher and an inventive administrator.  He was chair of Michigan’s English department from 1968 to 1973, the very first chairman of the department who had received his doctorate elsewhere. He was founder of Michigan’s Medieval and Renaissance Collegium, which became the Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. He retired from the university in 1995.

Fraser’s reputation spread far beyond the halls of his home university. He was a Rockefeller Resident Scholar at Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio, a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii and at Columbia, and was a Senior Fulbright-Hays Scholar. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship and in 1977 was awarded Michigan’s Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award.

The National Association of Scholars was honored to have him as a member. His wife of 33 years, Mary Zwiep, has very graciously asked friends and family to make donations to the organization in his name. We are grateful that she has thought of us and Prof. Fraser’s commitment to us at this time.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his two children from his first marriage to Eleanor Phillips, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

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