January 25, 2010

Bishop Leaves Legacy Of Literary Scholarship

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Prof. Emeritus Jonathan P. Bishop, English, died in his home in Ithaca on Friday at the age of 83. Prof. Bishop, the first husband of Pulitzer Prize winning author Alison Lurie, taught at Cornell from 1961 until the late 1990s. Born in Paris on October 27, 1927, Bishop’s father was the noted American poet John Peale Bishop.

While studying at Harvard, Bishop married Radcliffe graduate Alison Lurie in 1948. Following a brief appointment at Amherst College and the subsequent completion of his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1956, Bishop went on to teach at UCLA before moving to Ithaca with his wife and three sons.

Bishop began teaching at Cornell in 1961 and Lurie followed in his footsteps eight years later when the University hired her to teach in the then-new field of children’s literature. Lurie sought separation in 1975, but Bishop resisted due to his religious convictions and the couple’s marriage was not officially annulled for another decade. Despite personal turmoil, Bishop’s years in Ithaca were creatively productive as he penned Emerson on the Soul in 1964, Something Else in 1972, Covenant: A Reading in 1983, In Time, his last book, was published in 1999. He began his career as an essayist and biographer, though he became best known for works of semi-autobiographical fiction which were often philosophically influenced by Bishop’s Catholicism.

Co-founder and later director of the Cornell Freshman Seminar Program, Prof. Bishop’s interest in religion led him to become an active member of the Cornell Catholic Community. Following his retirement from the Cornell English Department, Bishop spent much of his time volunteering at local charitable organizations, including Ithaca community kitchen Loaves and Fishes.

Prof. Thomas Hill, English, whose office was across the hall from Bishop’s for many years, said, “He was a very decent, very kind man and I’m sorry to hear that he passed away.” Hill described Bishop’s diverse and shifting academic interests as unique. “In [this] university at that time you couldn’t turn away from American studies and become a Biblical scholar, but Jonathan [Bishop] did that,” he said.

Bishop is survived by sons John, Jeremiah and Joshua and by grandchildren Wells, Anna and Jonathan.

Original Author: Sun Staff