Edmund Keeley, ‘Unwavering’ Advocate of the Humanities at Princeton, Dies at 94

March 16, 2022
Photo by Randall Hagadorn

Edmund “Mike” Keeley, the inaugural Charles Barnwell Straut Class of 1923 Professor of English, Emeritus, and professor of creative writing, emeritus, poet and renowned translator of modern Greek poetry, died peacefully at home in Princeton on Feb. 23. He was 94.

Keeley, a 1949 alumnus, taught English, creative writing, comparative literature, and translation at for 40 years.

From 1965 to 1981, Keeley—accompanied by Theodore “Ted” Weiss from 1966 onward—directed the Program in Creative Writing, which began as part of the Creative Arts Program overseen by the Humanities Council. Inspired by a stay at the famed Iowa Writers Workshop, Keeley turned all creative writing courses into workshops, where students gave feedback on each other’s drafts instead of following a more traditional academic format.

At the invitation of Keeley and Weiss, Joyce Carol Oates joined the University faculty in the fall of 1978. She began as a lecturer in the Humanities Council and its Program in Creative Writing, which had become a distinct Program four years earlier.

Keeley’s love of modern Greece extended to helping establish the Program in Hellenic Studies. He participated in activities of the Stanley J. Seeger ’52 Center for Hellenic Studies until near the end of his life.

“Mike was the preeminent scholar and translator of modern Greek poetry of our time,” said Dimitri Gondicas, the Stanley J. Seeger ’52 Director of the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, in a tribute on the University homepage.

Read his obituary on the University website, along with an excerpt from one of Keeley’s translations of Cavafy, and “Daylight,” the penultimate poem Keeley wrote, capturing his reflections on the pandemic.

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