Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In memoriam: Douglas A. Brooks

Douglas A. Brooks, associate professor of English at Texas A&M University, editor of the Shakespeare Yearbook, and author of From Playhouse to Printing House: Drama and Authorship in Early Modern England, described by one of his students as “Best professor on the planet,” died this afternoon of the lung cancer that he had battled for eight months. He was fifty-two, and a fairly new father (his son Judah was born in December 2005). He can never be replaced.

Update. The official university obituary:

Douglas A. Brooks, 52, associate professor of English at Texas A&M University, died on Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 27). He was in treatment for cancer in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and was hospitalized at the time of his death.

The Department of English is planning a local memorial for Dr. Brooks, tentatively on Friday, Feb. 20.

Dr. Brooks came to Texas A&M in September 1997 [from Columbia University, where he earned his Ph.D.], and had been an English faculty member for 11 years. [Before earning his Ph.D., he had been a rabbinical student at Jewish Theological Seminary. Brooks was the grandson of the Yiddish writer Abraham Buchshteyn.] His area of concentration is early modern literature in English with focuses on drama, book history, and gender studies. A popular and engaging teacher, Dr. Brooks’s passion for the classroom had been recognized with two university teaching awards. He coordinated the Liberal Arts Honors Program for several years. In addition, Dr. Brooks spent countless hours mentoring students at Texas A&M.

A respected scholar, Dr. Brooks served as editor of the Shakespeare Yearbook, an international journal of Shakespeare scholarship. He had edited four books, authored 10 journal articles and 10 book chapters. He was working on a new manuscript at the time of his passing.

Dr. Brooks especially loved Shakespeare, and took great strides to introduce students to the English author. He was selected to deliver the very first Freshman Academic Convocation at Texas A&M in August 2003. The title of his presentation was “A Tale of Two Shakespeares.” He served as faculty advisor for the Texas A&M Shakespeare Festival during his 11 years at the university.

In an email to English majors, Dr. Jimmie Killingsworth, professor of English and head of the department said: “Like you, I was honored to know Douglas Brooks, to spend time in the glow of his brilliance, to hear his zany laugh, and have him as a close friend and colleague. We will all miss him.”

Update, II: M. Jimmie Killingsworth, head of the English department at Texas A&M University, has distributed a notice, asking anyone who wishes to write a note of condolence to address it to Douglas’s son, Judah Rosner, in care of him [killingsworth at tamu dot edu]. The notes will be gathered together and preserved with other memorabilia until Judah is old enough to read them for himself.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Brooks changed my life. He was the best professor I ever had. He brought his gigantic English sheep dog "Brisket" to class everyday and was one of those professors who never hesitated to move class outside on pretty days. He was always there to help; he would show up to study groups outside of class with dinner for his students. He didn't just talk about the literature he was teaching-- he spoke about everything as it applied to your own life and the world around you.

I am so sorry for the students that never got to experience his teaching.

Sitcom Serf said...

I miss Brooks a ton. I saw him last year, which makes him more recent in my memory than if I had just remembered his teaching. I am still sort of shocked that he's gone. Texas A&M will have some enormous shoes to fill.

Anonymous said...

I still grieve for Douglas Brooks. It was my luck to have taught him. After many year, we suddenly made contact once again at the Shakespeare and Lacan section that he organized at the Renaissance Conference in San Francisco. I found this recommendation that I had written for him in
January 15, 1991 in my files. I am sending it to share it with his friends:

Recommendation for Douglas Brooks

If it were in my power to convene a university ad hoc committee right now, I would do so in the hope of seeing a Ph.D in comparative literature granted to Douglas Brooks straight away on the basis of the various theses he has written. As far as I am concerned, he is ripe and ready to teach and publish and take his place in the academic community without further delay.
Needless to say, he is the most outstanding graduate student I have taught, with a rare and extraordinary intellectual giftedness, a phenomenally high level of mental culture, and an unusual and intense intellectual desire to track unsolved problems. He is, in brief, a kind of shock to the intellect, a mind that reminds one of how very extraordinary the mind can be.
His 102 page thesis (when 15 pages was all that was required) in Postmodern Text and Theory, (and I understand that he has produced similar tomes for other courses) entitled "The Dream of Freud's Decapitation: Oedipus, Lacan, and the Acephalic Freud," is rigorously logical, brilliantly original, and fascinating reading to boot. Douglas Brooks has a marvelous and unique philosophic-dramatic style of his own, at once complex and accessible, intricate and pleasurable. He reads texts the way a master detective would the scene of a crime, catching every clue -- slip, displacement, error -- and making possible a new reading and re-interpretation, in this instance, of Lacan's commentary on Freud's dream of Irma's injection as well as the readings of both these analysts of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex.
In class discussion, Douglas Brooks, somewhat older (yet several others in this class were also) naturally provided inspiration and leadership, and he did so with humor and ingenuousness. I believe that he won the respect and esteem of everyone in the class as much by his warmth, humanity, and wit as by his knowledge and ability to stimulate others intellectually.
I sincerely hope that he will be given all the assistance he needs to complete his Ph.D. so that he can assume the position in the academic community that he should have. We cannot afford to lose someone so excellent.

Unknown said...

The longest two years of my life have passed since losing Doug... Doug was that friend you look forward to being old with...the guy who remembers what really did happen after that gig and why "Cotton's Monkey" should have been the name of our first album... WHo else in the world could crack the most irreverent jokes sitting in the back row of a faculty meeting and yet stand to speak with eloquence, purpose, intellectual honesty, and dignity about the issues we faced as a university... I have never met a better teacher... I have never seen anyone love their students the way Doug was able to love them--and they knew that... What a gentle, generous spirit we lost two years ago... The world is strangely balanced...darker for the want of his presence...and brighter from the remarkable light he left behind... Like anonymous, i still grieve for Douglas Brooks...

"Oh you heifer you!!!"


Ben Dolan said...

I was once a freshman at TAMU, directionless, mad at the world, craving recognition. I took a large lecture course--some sort of intro to literature--that Dr. Brooks was teaching. His lectures had inspired me to read texts more closely; his ideas were irreverent and evocative. We had something like two or three grades in the course: essay exams.

He gave me a good grade on my essay, and right above the score he wrote: "Come see me."

I did. He asked about my life. My major. My plan. I had no plan.

"You should be an English major," he said. "Your writing is exemplary."

I hesitated.

"Why the hell not?" he asked.

I didn't know.

"C'mon, we'll do the paperwork now."

We did, and I graduated with a degree in English a couple years later. Seven years have passed since then, and I'm now beginning my MFA in Creative Nonfiction at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Brooks was the first push anyone (other than my mom) had given me. Thank God for him.

I'm teaching a freshman writing course, too, and have found myself thinking about Dr. Brooks' course so many years ago.

Memory eternal, Dr. Brooks. I never told you how integral you were to my development as a writer, even if it was only a fifteen minute conference.

Unknown said...

Three years later, I still grieve. As a former student of Dr. Brooks, I cannot count the number of ways in which he inspired me. I owe a large part of who I am today to him and miss him dearly.

Anonymous said...

I knew Doug when he was a grad student at Michigan in the early 80s, before he went to Saudia Arabia. His roommate at the time was Hector Cruz. He told me once he had "a little" CP, but it was "nothing", really. His positive demeanor and engaging personality is what I remember most. Doug encouraged me to stay in school no matter how frustrated I got with it. I remember the conversation well.

I've thought of him often over the years, wondering how his stint in Saudia Arabia worked out, since he was a "ladies man" in those days (no one else has said this yet, but I will). So, I googled him and found his obituary. I knew it was him when I read that he drank and smoked and was popular with his students. That was Doug. As sad as it is that he has passed, I am happy to read that he became such a famous Shakespearean scholar after I knew him.

RIP Doug Brooks. You lived life to the fullest, and you made the lives of others more interesting as well.