The campus community mourns the passing of Pauline Fletcher, who died on Monday, November 30. Pauline retired in 2002 as Professor Emerita of English after 20 years of service to Bucknell.
Pauline was an inspirational teacher, an accomplished and productive scholar, and an influential colleague who served the University in a number of capacities over her two decades on the Bucknell faculty. Her scholarship and teaching focused primarily on Victorian British literature, but she was a versatile thinker who also offered interesting interdisciplinary courses. Of particular note was her seminar in Science and Literature, which she taught with her husband David Fletcher, who was a professor of Biology at Bucknell; this popular upper-level course examined the impact of the theory of evolution on modern culture, challenging and delighting many students over the years. Pauline was a generous mentor to younger faculty in the department and served for one year as English Department Chair; she was the first woman to serve in that capacity. Pauline also provided invaluable service to the University, especially as long-time editor of the scholarly journal Bucknell Review. She is remembered by colleagues for her wicked sense of humor, her capacious intellect, and her kindness.
Included below is the complete text of the obituary, as provided by her husband, David.
You are encouraged to visit our In Memoriam Site at bucknell.edu/InMemoriam and share personal notes of sympathy and remembrance with others.
On behalf of our entire University community, I extend our deepest sympathies to Pauline’s family, as well as to all who knew her at Bucknell.
John C. Bravman
Pauline was born in 1938 in Salisbury, the capital city of the then British colony of Southern Rhodesia. (At the time of independence, the city was renamed Harari, and the country, Zimbabwe.) Her father worked on the Mazoe Citrus Estates so she attended the Girls High School in Salisbury as a boarder. There, she qualified for a Matriculation Exemption, which qualified her to attend university. She elected to go to the University of Natal in South Africa, where, in Pietermaritzburg, the capital city of the province, she earned her BA degree in 1958. On graduation day in the new year she was married to fellow-graduate, David Fletcher, having been snapped up by him three years earlier when she was a freshet.
Pauline became senior English teacher at a local girls school and, at the same time, she studied part-time for a BA Honors degree, which she earned with distinction two years later. With this success, she continued her studies and earned a Masters’ degree three years after that. Having impressed the faculty members on both the Pietermaritzburg and Durban campuses of Natal University, she was then herself appointed to the faculty in Durban, 50 miles away from home. This resulted in a commuter marriage for a period of one year, when a vacancy in the English Department in Pietermaritzburg permitted a full reunion with her husband. Her considerable talents as an English Scholar were recognized when, in 1975, she was awarded the prestigious Pringle Prize by the English Academy of Southern Africa for two papers she had published in leading academic journals.
In executing a long-term plan to escape with her husband from apartheid South Africa, Pauline accompanied him to his new position in the city of Pretoria in the Transvaal Province and taught in the English Department of the University of South Africa for a year, but realizing that she would need an American PhD to get into the academic world of the United States, she came to the US to the University of Rochester, thereby precipitating a second period of commuter marriage. This lasted for two years before she could rejoin her husband, who by then was at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. There she wrote her thesis, which she afterwards adapted as a book: Gardens and Grim Ravines: The Language of Landscape in Victorian Poetry, which was published by Princeton University Press in 1983, and which the Press currently describes as “the first systematic examination of the significance of landscape in Victorian poetry.”
With her PhD from Rochester University, Pauline was free to apply for academic positions in the United States and was truly captivated by her experience with the faculty at Bucknell University when she was invited here for an interview. Pauline accepted the position when it was offered to her in 1981, thereby initiating a third and prolonged period of commuter marriage. This was terminated in 1986, when, in danger of losing Pauline, Bucknell offered her husband a job and he said farewell to the University of Georgia.
At Bucknell, Pauline was selected as a recipient of the Lindback Award for the 1984-85 academic year. For the rest, one may simply quote from a letter written in 1984 by Francis D. Fergusson, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, when appointing Pauline as Acting Director of the University Press. “Bucknell is fortunate indeed that you are willing to take on this additional task. Indeed, it will soon be difficult to find any aspect of University life in which Pauline Fletcher does not play a central role.”
Pauline retired from Bucknell in 2002 and was living at home, close to the campus, when she passed away peacefully on November 30, 2020. She was 82 years old and is survived by her husband. A memorial gathering for friends and colleagues will be arranged when the Age of Covid-19 has itself passed.