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Hugh Thomas Keenan

Hugh Thomas Keenan, PhD, retired professor emeritus of English, Georgia State University, died June 9 in Atlanta, Ga.

Born in Humboldt, Tenn. in 1936, he received BS, BA and MA degrees from Memphis State College, receiving his PhD from the University of Tennessee, with a concentration in Old and Middle English language and literature. He taught mathematics and English in high schools in Arkansas and Tennessee, and English at Delta State College and Memphis State College. Moving to Atlanta, he taught English at Georgia State University from 1968 until retiring in 1998. Besides lower division English courses, he taught regularly Middle English, Old English, the history of English and advanced grammar on the undergraduate and graduate levels. He introduced the study of children’s literature to the English department. He wrote a number of essays on children’s authors, organized MLA seminars and edited a book of essays. Along with his publications in Middle English, Old English and Children’s Literature, he had a special interest in the application of typology in medieval literature and edited a book of essays, “Typology an English Medieval Literature” (AMA Press 1992). In the latter part of his career, his study of Joel Chandler Harris resulted in four books. These were entitled “Joel Chandler Harris: The Writer in His Time and Ours” (The Atlanta Historical Journal, Fall-Winter 1986-87); an edition of Harris’s surviving letters to his children, published as “Dearest Chums and Partners: The Letters of Joel Chandler Harris to His Children” (University of Georgia Press, 1993). Two final works were with R. Bruce Bickley Jr., “Joel Chandler Harris: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism, 1977-1996” (Greenwood Press, 1997) and a monograph, “The Library of Joel Chandler Harris: An Annotated Book List” (Emory University, 1998). In retirement he traveled extensively to historic houses and gardens. At home, he pursued interests in gardening, decorating and the study of architecture.

He was a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and later attended services at The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany.

His parents were the late Jewel Owens and Hugh Avery Keenan, in honor whom he established a doctoral fellowship in English at the University of Tennessee. His older brother, Pvt. Clifford Keenan, a paratrooper, died in the D-Day invasion; his younger brother, Joe T. Keenan died in 2017. He leaves two nephews and two nieces, plus four great-nieces and great-nephews.

SouthCare Cremation & Funeral Society is in charge of arrangements. Graveside services will be in the Keenan family plot, Rose Hill Cemetery, in Humboldt, Tenn., Saturday, June 29 at 10 a.m., conducted by the honorable Tommy Rhoads.

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