William Howarth

William “Will” Howarth, professor of English, emeritus, and eminent Thoreau scholar and environmental humanist, died of interstitial lung disease at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center on June 6, 2023. He was 82.

4 thoughts on “William Howarth

  1. John Fleming

    Will Howarth, my long-time colleague and friend, exemplified the highest Princeton tradition of the teacher-scholar. Even more important, he was simply a very fine man whose intelligence, energy, and broad intellectual sympathies enriched innumerable lives during his long years of service. It is very difficult to accept that he is gone; but he will live on in the memories of scores of undergraduates whom he taught, advised, and befriended.

  2. Alexandra Bradner

    On the first day of American lit, 150 or so students sat expectantly in the lecture hall, waiting for the first class to begin. All of a sudden, the lights went dark, to a complete blackout. Moving lyrics appeared on a giant movie screen with a bouncing white ball hitting each word (—this was 1988, so the tech was off-the-charts impressive). Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes” started *blaring.* We were mesmerized, listening to the whole thing. After it was over, Howarth delivered a convincing lecture about how Simon’s lyrics were American poetry. It was a “wow.” I didn’t know a class could be that exciting, that entertaining, that informative, and that provocative, all at the same time. Honestly, that’s probably the moment when I decided that teaching was what it (—life, academia, my career) was all about.


  3. Jan Devereux ‘81

    It’s been way too many years, but I have such fond and distinct memories of the seminars I took with Will. I still have the spiral-bound reading journals he asked us to keep and which he enthusiastically read and commented on. Simply put, he was a great teacher, and I count myself very lucky to have been one of his students.

  4. Douglas Eisenhart

    I arrived on campus as a freshman in the fall of 1968 and was assigned to Professor Howarth as my academic advisor. From the start we just clicked. He was a very good listener, gentle, soft-spoken, not in the least overbearing or demanding but supportive and helpful to a newbie student trying to steer his way through the myriad course options available to him, in those days presented in a single paperback course guide. As a potential English major (I subsequently became one) I took Howarth’s Lit 132 class on early American literature the following spring. The course was a revelation, covering the masterful short stories of Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, O Henry, and others, beautifully brought to life by Howarth. One small, humorous downside: as his advisee he of course already knew me, a fact unknown by my classmates. Thus, when calling on students in class he would say: “Mr. Andrews? What do you think?” or “Mr. Cartwright?” But when it came to me: “Yes, Doug?” much to the irritation of my classmates. Will Howarth will be greatly missed, not only as a master teacher but as a human who, among other commendable qualities, had his finger on the key environmental issues well ahead of time. RIP, friend.

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