Obituary — George Jay Bornstein


George Bornstein, C.A. Patrides Professor Emeritus of English Language and Literature in LSA, died after sunset Feb. 2, with his wife, Jane Bornstein, by his side.

George Bornstein
George Bornstein

He was born Aug. 25, 1942, the son of the late Harry and Celia Bornstein and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended Harvard University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1963.  He then attended Princeton University, where he received his doctorate in 1966.

Bornstein joined the faculty at the University of Michigan as an associate professor in 1970 and was promoted through the ranks to professor in 1975. He retired from the LSA faculty in 2006.

Bornstein was one of the most distinguished and admired scholars of Modernism in his generation. For decades, he devoted himself to the study of the literature and culture of the later 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries. His energetic teaching, tireless advising, work at conferences, service to the profession, and prolific publication of books, articles and reviews furthered scholars’ understanding of an extraordinarily wide range of topics in the field of literary studies.

He made U-M a congenial, challenging and productive center for students of Modernism and of editorial theory. And he continued to expand his interests and his areas of expertise, becoming an important voice for anyone studying 19th- and 20th-century Jewish and African American culture — whether they were undergraduates, graduate students, colleagues or distinguished faculty from colleges and universities around the world.

In his courses and his publications, Bornstein always encouraged his students and his readers to cross intellectual, historical and methodological boundaries — whether it be to bring Romantic and Modern poets into conversation with one another, to combine editorial theory with incisive interpretive approaches to poetry and prose or, in the last decade or so of his career, to rethink questions of the social and aesthetic constructions of race and ethnicity in the light of a deeply historicized characterization of literature and culture in the first half of the 20th century. 

He was the author of seven scholarly monographs and the editor of 12 books. He published close to 50 articles, as well as numerous reviews, and he gave talks at conferences, colleges and universities throughout the United States, Ireland, England and Germany.

In addition to his edited volumes of W.B. Yeats’ poetry and prose, which are foundational to anyone working on this seminal poet’s oeuvre, Bornstein wrote well and widely on an impressive range of subjects, as a selection of his published monographs makes clear: “The Colors of Zion: Blacks, Jews, and Irish from 1845 to 1945,” “Material Modernism: The Politics of the Page,” “The Iconic Page in Manuscript, Print and Digital Culture,” “Palimpsest: Editorial Theory in the Humanities,” “Poetic Remaking: The Art of Browning, Yeats, and Pound,” “Ezra Pound among the poets: Homer, Ovid, Li Po, Dante, Whitman, Browning, Yeats, Williams, Eliot” and “Yeats and Shelley.”

Bornstein is survived by his wife, Jane York Bornstein; children Benjamin Bornstein, Rebecca Bornstein and Joshua Bornstein; and two granddaughters.

Submitted by the Department of English Language and Literature


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