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Paul A. Jorgensen

Professor of English, Emeritus

Los Angeles



After growing up in densely Scandinavian Solvang, California, Paul Jorgensen turned to the UC system to complete his formal education: bachelor's degree in 1938 from Santa Barbara State College (now UCSB), then master's degree and doctorate from UC Berkeley (1940, 1945). In 1942 he married Virginia Elfrink, and shortly thereafter fathered the first of two daughters, Mary Catherine. After an initial year at UC Davis in 1946 (commuting from Berkeley), Jorgensen commenced his more than three decades at UCLA, his family soon enriched by a second daughter, Elizabeth. He became a full professor in 1960, was above-scale from 1974 until his retirement in 1981, and was included in both Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.


From the beginning Jorgensen's primary academic interest lay in Shakespeare, as is evident in his five principal books (all but the last published by UC Press). The first, for which he is still perhaps most widely known and acknowledged as authoritative, is Shakespeare's Military World (1956), the product of a decade's study of Elizabethan attitudes toward peace, war, divided command, military rank, and the like as reflected, for example, in Othello and Coriolanus. Accompanied by two prose anthologies (for English composition courses) and an abundance of scholarly articles and reviews, there followed four volumes on the tragedies, all reflecting his exceptionally broad reading in Elizabethan and Jacobean English and his thoughtful awareness of overtones and implications in words and phrases mistakenly thought self evident: Redeeming Shakespeare’s Words (1962), Lear’s Self-Discovery (1967), Our Naked Frailties: Sensational Art and Meaning in Macbeth (1971), and William Shakespeare: The Tragedies (Twayne, 1985). All are refreshingly provocative, admirably concise and lucid, and constantly based on sound historical considerations.


Jorgensen was always an unselfishly dedicated teacher, both with undergraduates and graduates, but was most successful in graduate seminars where students could best appreciate his unobtrusive learning and his ever active but quiet sense of humor. The devoted admiration of his doctoral candidates was legendary. He served for years as bibliographer for Shakespeare Quarterly, as a member of the editorial boards for UC Press, The Huntington Library Quarterly, and Film Quarterly, and as principal Shakespearean for PMLA.


A Guggenheim fellow in 1956-57 and Regents faculty fellow in humanities, 1973-74, Jorgensen was a member of the Modern Language Association, the Shakespeare Association of America, the International Shakespeare Association, the Renaissance Society of America, and the Philological Association, Pacific Coast.

Paul Jorgensen is survived by his wife, Virginia, and by their two daughters.



Robert Dent

Reginald Foakes