In Memoriam: Professor James Woodress

June 7, 2011

James Woodress, 94, an eminent biographer and noted scholar in the field of American literature, died on May 19, 2011, in Pomona, CA. After earning his bachelor’s degree at Amherst College and his master’s at NYU, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He completed his doctoral dissertation at Duke University, which led to the publication of his first book Howells and Italy. In the 1950s until the mid 1960s, he taught in the English Department at California State University, Northridge (originally San Fernando Valley State College). There he served as department chair and as Dean of the School of Humanities. He continued his career at the University of California, Davis, until his retirement in 1987. Professor Woodress wrote two biographies of Willa Cather, Willa Cather: Her Life and Art and Willa Cather: A Literary Life, along with biographies of Joel Barlow and Booth Tarkington. He was the founder of American Literary Scholarship, a distinguished annual review of literary criticism. In 1985 the Modern Language Association awarded him its Hubbell Medal, given annually to a person “whose total body of work has been a major influence on the study and teaching of American literature.” In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Homeship Fund, Mt. San Antonio Gardens, 900 E. Harrison Avenue, B12, Pomona, CA 91767.