Alumni‎ > ‎

Elliott Coleman

Elliott Coleman was born on September 26, 1906 in Binghamton, New York, the son of an Episcopal minister. He graduated from Wheaton College in 1928 and taught for 12 years at the Asheville School, a boys school in Asheville, N.C.--using his vacations to travel abroad. He published his first book of poetry in 1936. This work was described as "spring[ing] from the deep wells of Christian belief and fellowship" (Wheaton Alumni News, March-April 1936, p. 3).

After his career in Asheville Elliott turned to the study of theology, first at Princeton Theological School and then Oxford University. In 1940 he went to New York to study at the General Theological Seminary. Coleman was ordained an Episcopal Deacon in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. While in New York, Coleman work for two publishers Henry Holt & Co. (1942-43) and Doubleday & Co. (1943-45).

In 1945 Coleman came to The Johns Hopkins University to reorganize the freshman writing course. The following year in September 1946 he founded the Department of Writing, Speech and Drama the predecessor to The Writing Seminars, which he founded in 1947--the second such program in the country. He remained chairman of this department until his retirement in 1975. One of the first writers Coleman attracted to the program was Karl Shapiro, the poet. Others who came to Hopkins to work with Coleman's students were E.E. Cummings, Dylan Thomas, Katharine Anne Porter, W.H. Auden, and Robert Frost. Students of Coleman's included John Barth, Russell Baker, Julia Randall, Joseph Whitehill, Richard Kim, and Josephine Jacobsen. He was a mentor to many American writers who later gained prominence, including Russell Baker, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Growing Up, and John Barth, who won the National Book Award for Chimera.

Coleman was a scholar whose work dealt with the literary criticism of Marcel Proust, T.S. Eliot and James Joyce. He edited a volume of the poems of Byron, Keats, and Shelley and translated the poems of Pierre Emmanuel, Georges Poulet, and Alfredo Rizzandi. Coleman was also a poet and published more than a dozen volumes of poetry.

Coleman died on February 23, 1980 in Baltimore.