University of Rochester

Professor Emeritus of English Cyrus Hoy Dies at 84

May 4, 2010

Cyrus Hoy, a University of Rochester professor and distinguished scholar and critic of British Renaissance and 17th century literature, died April 27 of complications from a long illness. He was 84.

The John B. Trevor Professor Emeritus of English and former chair of the Department of English, Hoy was the author of The Hyacinth Room: An Investigation into the Nature of Comedy, Tragedy, and Tragicomedy (1964) and numerous critical and scholarly essays on a wide range of subjects in Renaissance and modern literature. Some of his most important work concerned the editing of the texts of English Renaissance drama. He collaborated with his mentor, Fredson Bowers, perhaps the most influential scholarly editor of the 20th century, on several monumental editorial projects, including The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker (1953) and The Dramatic Works of Beaumont and Fletcher (1996), both published in multiple volumes by Cambridge University Press.

At Professor Hoy's retirement in 1994, then-chair of the English department Morris Eaves commented: "To friends and colleagues he is known as a person with whom it is risky to have a conversation on a subject about which you know less than you might pretend to know, because he always knows whatever you don't. . . . But his knowledge, and his steel trap of mind and memory, extend far beyond the boundaries of the literary . . . which can be wonderful or terrifying, depending, probably, on your own level of self-esteem."

According to Patrick Scanlon '84, who studied under Professor Hoy while working on his doctoral degree in English, "Cyrus Hoy was a scholar's scholar. He directed the dissertations of a long train of young Ph.D. students and had an enormous impact on all of us. Studying with him was the highlight of my education."

Professor Hoy completed his bachelor's degree, master's degree, and doctorate at the University of Virginia (1950, 1951, 1954) and taught at Vanderbilt University before joining the Department of English at the University of Rochester in 1964. He taught courses in Shakespeare and his contemporaries, Spenser, Sidney, Milton, Henry James, and D. H. Lawrence. He characterized his primary interests as "Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and the styles in comedy, tragedy, and tragicomedy that are characteristic of it." His investigations into the authorship of anonymous and collaborative Renaissance English plays called for intense scrutiny of the linguistic details of 17th century dramatic texts. This was one aspect, as he put it, of a "larger concern with the qualities of the language of Renaissance English literature, and the capacities of this language for both authorial and generic differentiation." His work centered in bibliography and textual criticism, and he edited and annotated a number of dramatic texts of Shakespeare and other dramatists, most of them still in print, including the Dekker and Beaumont and Fletcher editions, the Norton Critical Edition of Shakespeare's Hamlet (1992), and other plays in the Regents Renaissance Drama Series. Hoy's 1964 book, The Hyacinth Room – which took up a remarkable range of plays from the ancient to the modern – demonstrated his breadth and eloquence as a student of aesthetics and literary form.

After serving as director of graduate study for the English department from 1972 to 1981, Hoy became chair of the department from 1984 to 1988 during critical years of transition in the department's history. According to Eaves, "one of the reasons for his success as department chair was his ability to appreciate a range of intellectual styles and interests and angles of approach—and his ability to tolerate other styles and interests with which he had less sympathy." Locally, he helped to build and maintain the collections of the Rush Rhees Library. In his profession, he served as General Editor of the Regents Renaissance Drama Series and as a member of the editorial board of Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England. He was closely associated with the programs and publications of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. He was a Fulbright Scholar, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Folger Library Fellow.

In his later years, Professor Hoy lived at Valley Manor on East Avenue in Rochester. He is survived by members of his extended family in West Virginia and by colleagues, friends, and devoted caretakers in Rochester. He will be interred in his hometown of St. Mary's, W.Va. The University flag will be flown at half-staff in his honor on Wednesday, May 5.