Celeste Goodridge (1954-2018)

March 6, 2018 by Office of the President

To the Bowdoin community,

It is my sad duty to inform you that Professor of English Celeste Goodridge passed away peacefully in Scarborough, Maine, on Saturday, March 3, at the age of 63, after a period of declining health. Celeste had been a member of the Bowdoin faculty ​since 1986 and was a valued colleague and a professor beloved by her students. Celeste maintained an active interest in the intellectual and personal development of her former students in the years following their graduation.

Celeste was born on May 18, 1954. She graduated as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and with an AB in American literature from George Washington University in 1975. She earned an AM in English at The College of William and Mary in 1977, and a PhD in English at Rutgers University in 1985. She also was enrolled in the School of Criticism and Theory at Northwestern University in 1985. In 1989 she was the Ernestine Richter Avery Fellow of The Huntington Library. 

In the 1985-1986 academic year, she was assistant director of the Livingston College Writing Program at Rutgers University. She joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor of English, was promoted to associate professor in 1991, and to professor of English in 1997.  From 1994 to 1996, she served as the chair of the English department. She was a Bunting Institute Fellow at Harvard University in the 1996-1997 year.

Celeste’s research interests covered a broad range of topics, including twentieth-century and contemporary American poets, Cold War literature and culture, the literature of the South, and literary and cultural theory. She had a gift for engaging her students and professional colleagues in the public and private worlds of modernist poets through a keen appreciation of the relationship between the personal and private performance that created art and the presentation of that art to an audience. Her 1989 book, Hints and Disguises: Marianne Moore and Her Contemporaries, is a work of scholarly brilliance that explores the linguistic precision, complexity, and richness of Moore’s poetry within the social and literary context of her contemporaries, such as T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.  She was the coeditor of Selected Letters of Marianne Moore (1997), and she wrote a number of book chapters, scholarly articles, and reviews on Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Amy Clampitt H’92, Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmon Silko, Galway Kinnell, and Susan Sontag.

Between 1986 and 1989, Celeste served successively as secretary and treasurer, vice president, and president of the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA). She was a member of the editorial boards of Sagetrieb (a journal of the National Poetry Foundation) and the annual journalStudia Mystica and served on review boards for grant proposals submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

She will be missed a great deal by her professional colleagues at Bowdoin and elsewhere, by her friends, by her former students, and by all those whose understanding—of poetry and of life—has been expanded and enriched by her remarkable legacy of teaching and scholarship.

Celeste’s friends are planning a memorial service in celebration of her life at a later date. Gifts in her memory may be made to the Department of English at Bowdoin (c/o Office of Development and College Relations, 4100 College Station, Brunswick, ME  04011-8432).