Professor Emerita Margery Durham, scholar of Victorian literature and co-founder of the Nineteenth Century Subfield in English, died September 23, 2012.
Margery Durham, professor emerita of English, died September 23, 2012, in Polson, Montana. Durham was a scholar of Romantic and Victorian literature, especially Matthew Arnold (the subject of her dissertation), George Eliot, the Brontë sisters, and Charles Dickens. Among other articles, she wrote the widely cited essay "The Mother Tongue: Cristabel and the Language of Love," about Coleridge's poem, which was included in (M)Other Tongue: Essays in Feminist Psychoanalytic Interpretation, edited by her colleagues Shirley Garner and Madelon Sprengnether along with Claire Kahane (Cornell University Press, 1985).
"Margery was a devoted student and teacher of the full range of Victorian literature, glad to share her understanding of its complex forms and values," remembers Professor Michael Hancher. "More than 30 years ago she was a founding member of the Victorian Literature Subfield, which continues today as the Nineteenth Century British Subfield. She played a key role in the enduring tradition of Victorian studies at Minnesota, and will long be remembered for that contribution, as well as for her generous friendship and hospitality."
Durham was born in 1933 in Nashville, Tennessee, and received her BA (1955) with honors in American History from the College of New Rochelle, a liberal arts college near New York City. She worked as a copy editor in Washington, D.C., and New York City, where she began taking evening classes at New York University. There she completed a MA in English Literature, followed by a PhD in English Literature at Indiana University in Bloomington in 1965.
Durham joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota that year and taught in the Department of English for three decades; she also taught for a year at the University of East Anglia in England. In 1969, she married a colleague, Lonnie Durham, whom she had met as a graduate student at Indiana. As her obituary notes, "Their relationship as colleagues was a delightful mix of collaboration and competition, underlined and punctuated by loving wit."
The Durhams retired in the fall of 1996 and moved to Polson, Montana, a small town south of Glacier National Park on Flathead Lake. There Margery enjoyed drawing and painting, as well as playing bridge and hiking, fishing, and swimming, until a palsy related to Parkinson's curtailed her activities. Margery is survived by her husband, her daughters, Alice and Emily, stepson James, and one grandson.