When I arrived as a new faculty member to an overcrowded Bartlett Hall, I was dismayed to learn that I would have to share an office. My attitude quickly changed, however, when I got to know the learned, witty, and generous colleague who made Bartlett 376 a haven during my first few years.
Jim Freeman, who retired last spring, was a member of our department for forty-seven years. Hired as specialist in Renaissance literature, he published two monographs on John Milton: Milton and the Martial Muse: Paradise Lost and the European Traditions of War and Urbane Milton: The Latin Poems. An accomplished classicist, he translated numerous works from Greek and Latin and regularly taught a popular graduate course on classical influences on English literature. His research and teaching took him to several international venues, in Italy, Switzerland, Singapore, Ireland, Spain, and the Netherlands.
Jim’s knowledge and enthusiasm repeatedly overlapped traditional boundaries of period, genre, and discipline. In the last decade, he published two volumes intimately connected to the history and culture of his Western Massachusetts hometown. The Angel of Hadley details the origins and development of a legend about a mysterious figure who saved the town from an Indian attack in 1675, a story retold by several prominent nineteenth-century authors. His critical biography of Clarence Hawkes (1869-1954), known as the “Blind Poet of Hadley,” explores the naturalist’s life and works, which included nearly sixty volumes of poetry and prose. He has also published dozens of short articles in The Association of Gravestone Studies Quarterly, offering fascinating and often surprising insights into the social, cultural, and political resonances of funerary art from around the world. The evocative titles include “Ring around the Tombstones: Envelope Structure in Film and Literature,” “Thinking Inside the Box: Two and One Half Millennia of Premature Burials,” “Shall We Shake Hands with a Mummy?” and “Remembering Guilty Pleasures: Ben and Jerry’s Cemetery.” Finally, his abiding interest in American radio led to several encyclopedia entries, such as “Stereotypes of Women, Children, Races and Foreigners on Golden Age American Radio,” and presentations to the American Culture Association, including “American Radio as Secular Religion,” “Race, Language and Clothing in Amos ‘n’ Andy,” and “Seven Types of Femininity on Golden Age Radio Comedy.” He recently completed a monograph on the subject entitled Out of Thin Air.
Jim and I have discussed all of these topics and many more—from Donald Duck (on whom he has lectured) to Italian art, culture, and especially food—both as office mates and in the years since, and these conversations made it easy to understand why this congenial colleague was such a popular and effective teacher. Ave atque vale!
Written by Professor Joseph Bartolomeo