Paul Nathan Zietlow

(February 14, 1935 – May 22, 2015)

Paul Nathan Zietlow was born on 14 February 1935 in Neenah, Washington. After his parents, Ruth and Carl Zietlow, moved to Minneapolis, Paul grew up there, graduating from University High School in 1952. During his high school years, he spent two years at the American Dependents’ High School in Frankfurt, Germany. Upon graduating from high school, Paul enrolled in Yale University, where he earned a BA in English and graduated magna cum laude in 1956.

Paul continued his education at the University of Michigan, earning his PhD in English in 1964. While in graduate school, he won two Hopwood Prizes for creative writing, one for a play script and the other for a short story. In 1957, he married Charlotte Ernst Thiele; they had met in high school in Minneapolis. Paul and Charlotte have two children, Nathan and Rebecca, and four grandchildren.

Paul’s PhD dissertation focused on the poetry of Thomas Hardy and Edwin Arlington Robinson, making him a Victorianist. After receiving his PhD from Michigan, Paul was hired by the English Department at Indiana, where he immediately joined those faculty who had established the journal Victorian Studies in 1957. Paul was soon chosen to be the Book Review Editor for the journal.

Much of Paul’s teaching and research focused on Victorian poetry. He was author of Moments of Vision: The Poetry of Thomas Hardy (Harvard University Press, 1974) and of numerous articles concerning Hardy and other Victorian authors such as Robert Browning, Matthew Arnold, and Algernon Charles Swinburne. During his thirty-five year career at Indiana, Paul was also an effective and highly praised teacher, who in 1979 won the campus-wide Sigma Delta Chi’s Brown Derby award for teaching and service to students. During the award ceremony, he was cited as “a faculty member who has achieved outstanding recognition and respect among students.” Paul went on to serve for several years as the Director of Graduate Studies in English. He was frequently asked to serve on and often to supervise MA and PhD theses.

Paul became a Danforth Fellow in 1970. Besides serving as Graduate Studies Director in English, he also served on the College of Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee, on the Graduate Council, and as its chair on the Honorary Degrees Committees. Further, he was often elected to the English Department’s Advisory Committee, its Salary Committee, the College Policy Committee, and Bloomington Faculty Council. As Professor Don Gray says in the article about Paul for the IU Retirees’ Booklet, “We know that Paul will speak, trenchantly and from the heart, to promote the best of what we do as university professors.” All of his students and colleagues trusted him to do and say the right things.

Professor Gray goes on to say: “The signature of everything Paul Zietlow does as a teacher and scholar can be seen in his readiness to engage with [the] most ambitious texts of major canonical writers. …He responds amply… to their enormous energy and excitement. In the grace and acuity of his prose, and in the careful construction and spontaneous enthusiasm of his lectures, he has steadily worked to make others know and feel that excitement, too. …He honors and celebrates the high old faith that literature and literary study can make us better, or at least can help to keep us human.” He was the sort of professor, in other words, who brought out the human in the humanities.

As the obituary in the Bloomington Herald-Times stated, “Paul was valued as a colleague due to his sense of fairness and balance, and his incisive and unflinching approach to solving problems.” He was also valued beyond the university, always active in the community affairs of Bloomington. He served on a number of boards, including the Bloomington Playwrights Project, the Lotus Festival, and Planned Parenthood, among others. The obituary also states: “He was a lover of opera, music, theater, [and] all manner of sports.” He was a voracious reader beyond his academic field, and always well-informed about politics. He and Charlotte also loved to travel, sometimes with their children and grandchildren. Paul’s last trip took him once again to Germany, where he had spent two years when he was in high school.

Be it resolved that this Memorial Resolution for Professor Paul Nathan Zietlow be entered in the minutes of Bloomington Faculty Council and sent also to Charlotte Zietlow.

Patrick Brantlinger
James Rudy Professor of English Emeritus
Indiana University