Torchiana, Donald T.
Donald Thornhill Torchiana was born to Paul John and Martha (Fitzgerald) Torchiana on October 22, 1923 in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Torchiana joined the faculty of Northwestern University in 1953, afters serving in the Air Force and earning a Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. His research interests focused on 18th century English and Irish literature, the Irish Literary Renaissance, modern literature, and the writings of Joyce, Yeats, Swift and Pope. Torchiana retired in 1989 and died in 2001.
After attending Onarga Military Academy from 1937-1941, he served as a captain and B-17 pilot in the U.S. 8th Air Force during the last three years of World War II and was awarded the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. After the war, he transferred to the Air Force Reserve, where he served until 1960.
Torchiana attended DePauw University following his active military service. He was graduated in 1947 with a B.A. in English literature, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He then studied at the University of Iowa, and was awarded an M.A. in English literature in 1949 and a Ph.D. in English language and literature in 1953. During this time, he worked as a graduate assistant and English instructor.
He came to Northwestern University in 1953 and was Instructor in English from 1953-1959; Assistant Professor of English, 1959-1963; Associate Professor of English, 1963-1968; Professor of English, 1968-1989; and Professor Emeritus of English beginning in 1989. During these years he served on many departmental and University committees, including the Comparative Literature Committee, General Faculty Committee, Para-Education Committee, Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, General Studies Committee, Budget Committee, Executive Committee, and the Department of English Graduate Committee. His instructional involvement beyond Northwestern included participation in the Yeats International Summer School as either lecturer or seminar director in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1972, 1976, and 1981. He also was Fulbright Lecturer at University College, Galway, Ireland from 1960-1962, 1969-1970, and 1988-1989.
Torchiana's research interests were in English, Irish, and American literature with emphases on eighteenth-century English and Irish literature, the Irish Literary Renaissance, modern literature, and the writings of Joyce, Yeats, Swift, and Pope. In pursuit of these interests, he was active in many organizations at Northwestern—serving for example, as President of the Modern Language Club and Director of the Northwestern University W. B. Yeats Festival. His professional involvements extended beyond Northwestern as well. He was a member of the Irish Georgian Society, the American Committee for Irish Studies, the International Association for the Study of Anglo-Irish Literature, the Dublin Round Table, and the Eighteenth-Century Studies Society of America. In addition to his membership in the Modern Language Association, he also served as Secretary of its Committee on Celtic Literature, 1968-1969; Chair of the Celtic Section, 1970-1971; member of the Executive Committee, Anglo-Irish Section, 1980-; and Chair of the Anglo-Irish Section, 1982-1983. Since 1970, he has also been a consultant for the Royal Irish Academy.
Torchiana's standing in the field of English language studies was recognized over the years by many grants and fellowships awarded him, including a Northwestern summer grant-in-aid to study in Ireland, 1958; a Newberry Library fellowship, 1959; an ACLS grant to study in England, 1963-1964; and a NEH/Newberry Library grant, 1980.
A prolific writer, Torchiana's publications include numerous articles and book reviews, as well as two books, W. B. Yeats and Georgian Ireland (1966) and Backgrounds for Joyce's Dubliners (1986). He also edited Some New Letters from W. B. Yeats to Lady Gregory (1963) and served as a compiler for English Literature, 1660-1800; A Bibliography of Modern Studies, v. V: 1961-1965 and v.VI: 1966-1970 (1972), edited the Eighteenth-Century Bibliography section of Philological Quarterly, and was General Editor for the Modern Irish Writers Series, Northwestern University Press.
Torchiana and Rena Margarida LaSueur married on May 17, 1952 and divorced in July 1972. They had three children: Katherine Leslie, b. 1953; David Fitzgerald, b. 1954; and William DeGroot, b. 1958.
Donald T. Torchiana died on May 9, 2001.