Groden, Michael Lewis (3/25/2021)

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Michael Lewis Groden (Mike), Distinguished University Professor Emeritus Department of English and Writing Studies, at Western University, died peacefully on Thursday, March 25, 2021 in the presence of his wife of twenty-nine years, and friend of sixty years, poet and writer Molly Peacock, at Princess Margaret Cancer Center, Toronto. Memorial contributions may be made in his memory at The Michael Groden Fund for the UB James Joyce Collection,

Born on May 30, 1947 to Maxine and Sheldon Groden in Buffalo, New York, he was an exceptional student, attending Dartmouth College (BA, 1969), beginning as a math major, but abandoning math after studying James Joyce's Ulysses. His change was intertwined with a love story. In high school, Mike noticed the future poet and biographer Molly Peacock; they became boyfriend and girlfriend. After freshman year, the couple broke up. Then he encountered "the other Molly," the character of Molly Bloom, and discovered, as well a life-long model in Joyce's Jewish character, Leopold Bloom. Since that time, Michael Groden never stopped reading what has been called the novel of the twentieth century, sharing his lucid discoveries about the novel's structure and the humanity of its characters with scholars and the general audience. This includes his PhD dissertation at Princeton University, 1975, (which became his first book Ulysses in Progress); his editorship of the 63-volume James Joyce Archive; his position as a Professor of English at Western University in London, Ontario, for forty years; and his quarter century of James Joyce seminars at the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92Y in New York City, where he lectured until three weeks before his death. Michael Groden was a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, a member of The Royal Society of Canada, the recipient of an honorary D.Litt degree from University College Dublin (2004), and the Hellmuth Prize for Research. He acted as a consultant to the National Library of Ireland in the acquisition of important Joyce manuscripts and co-edited The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory. More recently he was the author of Ulysses in Focus and a memoir, The Necessary Fiction: Life with James Joyce's Ulysses. Just before his death he was at work as one of the co-editors of The Unpublished Letters of James Joyce. Along with his career came a shadow, melanoma. He lived for forty years with the disease, developing the kind of relationship with cancer that a small, smart wiry boy might have with a grudgingly mystified class bully. Shortly before his first occurrence, at age thirty-three, he became a long-distance runner, running the Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto marathons-with a best time of 2 hours and 47 minutes. He also was a fierce badminton player, the possessor of a piquant sense of humor, and a cat whisperer with unique relationships with seven felines. Because he chose to die through the Medical Assistance in Dying process, a brilliant man was lucid till his last hour.

Michael Groden is survived by his wife, whom he re-encountered and married in 1992, as well as by his brother, Joel Groden and his sister, Marcia Morath, both of Buffalo, New York. An international Zoom celebration of his life is planned between his birthday, May 30 and Bloomsday, June 16.

Published in The Globe and Mail from Apr. 10 to Apr. 14, 2021.

From a memorial site:


Michael Groden was born in Buffalo in 1947. He graduated with an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College, where he started out with the intention to study Math but instead discovered Joyce’s Ulysses, a book that would captivate him for his whole life.

He held graduate degrees from Princeton University (M.A., 1972, Ph.D., 1975). Mike joined the Department of English at Western in 1975. While at Western, he taught English, Film, and Literary Theory. He is internationally recognized as a scholar of the work of James Joyce, especially genetic criticism, editing and textual scholarship. He was a member of The Royal Society of Canada and was awarded a Doctor of Literature, honoris causes, by University College Dublin and the National University of Ireland, presented on Bloomsday (June16) in 2004. He was named as a Distinguished University Professor in 2006 and received Western's highest honour, the Hellmuth Prize for Achievement in Research in 2011. He retired in 2014.

Mike published “Ulysses” in Progress in 1977, a book that remains a central text in studies about how Joyce wrote his novel. He was the general editor of the 63-volume "James Joyce Archive," a facsimile collection of the author's manuscripts. In 2010 he published “Ulysses” in Focus, which includes further manuscript studies along with personal accounts of his interest in Ulysses. He was co-editor of The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (1994) and co-editor of Genetic Criticism: Texts and Avant-textes (2004).

He was on the editorial board of many scholarly journals and the author of innumerable scholarly articles and reviews as well as public commentaries and interviews on James Joyce. He served as a consultant to The National Library of Ireland and The Poetry Collection at the University of Buffalo on acquisitions and exhibits of Joyce manuscripts. He taught courses on Joyce at New York City's 92nd Street Y until this year. In 2019 he published a memoir about spending a lifetime with Joyce's Ulysses, The Necessary Fiction: Life With James Joyce's "Ulysses." Mike was also a long-distance runner, running the Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto marathons.

Mike met his Molly, the celebrated writer Molly Peacock, when they were both thirteen years old. Reunited in 1984 after twenty years apart, they were married in 1992. Their literary love story is recounted in both Molly’s and in Mike’s memoirs.

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