In Memoriam: George Haggerty

We are saddened to announce that George Haggerty, renowned scholar of eighteenth-century British literature, the gothic, and gender and sexuality studies, and a long-time supporter and member of PAMLA, passed away on June 30, 2023. George Haggerty was a prolific scholar whose work revolutionized eighteenth-century, Romantic, gothic, and queer studies. He recently retired as a Distinguished Professor of English after forty-two years of teaching at the University of California, Riverside. As George Haggerty’s former graduate student Nowell Marshall said of him, “He had an infectious laugh, was a good listener and advisor, was beloved by his undergraduate students, and cared deeply about those of us who took his graduate courses.” Indeed, George acted as a friend and mentor to many throughout his long career.

George Haggerty gave a memorable talk as part of the 2005 PAMLA Conference Forum at Pepperdine University; “Gay Studies Now; or LGBTI/Q Studies,” is remembered by many and remains very much worth reading in the 2006 volume of PAMLA’s journal, Pacific Coast Philology. In recent years, he was kind enough to preside over sessions on the gothic and British Literature, always bringing his encouraging and thoughtful leadership to each panel he chaired. He also presented fascinating papers at PAMLA conferences, including his paper “Lost in the Funhouse: Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill,” where Haggerty discussed the ways that Walpole “used his country house as a kind of game, or at least as an escape from the pressures of London life. All his decorations for the house, and the events that took place there, suggest that this house was the great love of his life.” This conference talk is indicative of George’s scholarship and writing more broadly—always fascinating, lucid, engaging, and often humorous and paradigm transforming.

Born on October 17, 1949, Haggerty grew up in Albany, New York. George graduated with honors from the College of the Holy Cross in 1971 and received his Ph.D. in English from the University of California at Berkeley in 1979.

George Haggerty was a groundbreaking scholar whose research focused on gothic fiction, gender and sexuality, and the life and writings of Horace Walpole. He wrote more than fifty articles and six field-defining monographs: Gothic Fiction/Gothic Form (1989); Unnatural Affections: Women and Fiction in the Later Eighteenth Century (1998); Men in Love: Masculinity and Sexuality in the Eighteenth Century (1999); Queer Gothic: Gothic Fiction and the History of Sexuality (2006); Horace Walpole’s Letters: Masculinity and Friendship in the Eighteenth Century (Bucknell UP–Transits Series, 2011); and Queer Friendship: Male Relations in the English Literary Tradition (Cambridge UP, 2018). While he is perhaps best known for Men in Love and Queer Gothic, his ideas about same-sex intimacies and love evolved over the course of his career. His last book, Queer Friendship, by distilling male intimacies into categories of elegiac, erotic, and platonic, provides an invaluable blueprint for understanding the poetics of sexuality across three centuries. In his 2013 review of David Halperin’s How to Be Gay, Haggerty wrote in defense of gay marriage as a valid option, arguing that gay identity could and would change and need not mean just one thing: “Without deploring gay men’s choices about how to lead their lives, we might instead challenge them to find out for themselves how to be gay.”

George Haggerty also edited several collections and encyclopedias in LGBTQ+ Studies; Professions of Desire: Lesbian and Gay Studies in Literature, coedited with Bonnie Zimmerman, received the G. Meyer Award for Outstanding Publication on Human Rights in 1998. Haggerty brought queer theory to eighteenth-century studies, but he also showed the critical place of the eighteenth-century for the formation of queer theory and sexual history.

As an active member of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS), Haggerty routinely chaired innovative panels and welcomed new members. He was recognized for his service with the ASECS Graduate Caucus Excellence in Mentorship Award in 2022, awarded in Baltimore at the last annual meeting he attended. George consistently made his warm and attentive presence felt, asking facilitative questions and comments with the intent of moving the presenter’s work forward. Anyone who had the privilege to speak with him about their work knows that he was the ideal interlocutor: generous, thoughtful, and rigorous.

When word spread of PAMLA’s plan to honor George Haggerty at the 2024 PAMLA Conference in Palm Springs, George’s home after his retirement, George’s students and colleagues shared their testaments to the important role George played in their lives. As Nowell Marshall, who helped us with this tribute to George Haggerty, stated: “As my dissertation chair, George was incredibly supportive and open minded, even when my work was densely theoretical. (I have since used his books as models for how to simplify and streamline complex ideas to make them more accessible.) If I had an idea, he encouraged me to pursue the line of inquiry to see where it went. Having taught, traveled to conferences, and listened to colleagues at new jobs over the years, I have realized how unique George’s teaching and mentoring style was. I wish every graduate student could have experienced it.”

Professor Stephanie Barbé Hammer, one of George Haggerty’s many colleague friends at UC Riverside, stated, “George was one of my first friends at UC Riverside and he was a crucial in getting me involved with PAMLA and the ASECS. A brilliant, award-winning teacher, he modeled how to teach both undergraduate and graduate students with wit and kindness. He was like the authors he studied: a gracious and sometimes hilarious gentleman of letters.”

Jason Farr, Associate Professor of English at Marquette University, said of Haggerty: “George was an exemplary advisor to me throughout my graduate studies and beyond. During the first year of my dissertation writing, I became severely hearing impaired. This completely transformed how I live in the world. My new hearing status also shifted how I interfaced with literature. George was so supportive and understanding of me throughout that time. He even prompted me to change direction with my project by grounding it in disability studies. At first, I was skeptical, but he was convinced that this would lead to something. Even though George was not a disability studies scholar, he pushed me in that direction, and it made all the difference for my career. I owe so much of who I am as a scholar and teacher to George Haggerty. He was truly one-of-a-kind, and I miss him dearly.”

Kristoffer Ekroll, a current UC Riverside graduate student, PAMLA member, and George’s student, said of him: “George Haggerty was a trusted mentor for me through my years at UCR. When I first arrived on campus, he immediately showed me around and hired me as his part-time research assistant. When my interests began to move away from the queer gothic I had initially arrived to study, he encouraged me in that pursuit and offered sage advice on how to navigate the shift while still staying true to my queer theory roots. George was always kind, insightful, and remarkably quick in his feedback. Whenever I have talked to other former students of his, the support and inclusivity that he provided for them always come up. His impact on queer and gothic studies was profound, but I believe this innate support and care for those around him will be just as much part of his legacy.”

And in the words of John Beynon, “I can’t imagine a more supportive, generous, and kind mentor than George Haggerty. While I studied at UC Riverside, George was my teacher, my mentor, and my dissertation advisor. In each of these capacities, he encouraged my scholarly pursuits, while opening doors to opportunities to research and present my work. But most importantly, George was a true friend. The caring and tender range of relationships between men that George explored in Men in Love were not abstract for him. He was a fiercely loyal, loving, and big-hearted man. I gained so much by sharing a length of life with him. I miss George deeply, but I also cherish the many wonderful memories of that man of true sentiment.”

George Haggerty’s warm and caring presence will be missed at PAMLA.

Should you wish to propose a paper for “Translating George Haggerty’s Legacy” at the 2024 PAMLA Conference, please go to: