Davis Taylor

13 September 2016
Davis Taylor
Davis Taylor

Davis Taylor died on September 8th, at age 73. Davis taught English at Carleton from 1969 until 1987. He was known as a dedicated and caring teacher and a colleague who brought new ideas and fresh approaches to teaching.  

After he left Carleton, Davis had a counseling practice and followed his passion for writing poetry. A more complete obituary is attached.  

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 15th at 10:30 AM at the Historic Herbster Gym in northern Wisconsin. 

Please keep all of Davis’ family, friends, former students, and colleagues in your thoughts and prayers.

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  • 2016-09-15 17:37:22
    Andrew Korsak

    To the Taylor family,

    I met Professor Davis Taylor when I was introduced to him by Professor Philip Sheridan of tne Carleton English Department in either late 1968 or early 1969.  At that time, Professor Taylor was interviewing for a faculty position at Carleton.  We had a brief but pleasant interchange.  If I recall correctly, he had just completed his graduate work at Yale.

    Having lost numerous relatives in death, I pray that God will extend comfort to you by "holding your right hand" (Isaiah 41:13) and cheering you with his "consolations," in spite of the many "cares of [the] heart" that you are now experiencing (Psalm 94:19).

    Please accept my deepest sympathies at this time of sorrow and loss.


    Andrew Korsak, Carleton College, Class of 1969





  • 2016-09-15 18:05:20
    Jane Hamilton

    Davis illuminated Chaucer for us Carleton Freshman.  It was hard to crack into the language, and he guided us through the tales and then we became our own guides.  I had a poetry workshop with him, just a few of us, who would meet at his house.  We were just kids--but what he made us feel was the fact that we were writers together.  Also, I babysat for Sam.  Wow, a peek into adult life.  I saw him after Carleton, just once.  I often thought of him--and will continue to think of him.  Why didn't I write him?  He was very important to me, and I send out love to all of you who will miss him.  Jane Hamilton, Class of 1979

  • 2016-09-15 22:15:50
    Libby Ester

    Before I studied Chaucer's Tales, I thought they would be impossible to understand, let alone enjoy.  But Davis Taylor skillfully guided us English majors through them, and now, nearly forty years later, I often find myself viewing ridiculous characters and situations in my life as if they have leapt from one of Chaucer's Tales.  When I do, I hear Davis Taylor's gentle voice opening me up to those fantastic characters and stories.  Libby Ester, '79

  • 2016-09-16 11:57:42
    Terry Moore '78

    I also studied Chaucer with Davis . . . and I also had a freshman writing class with him. He was very patient with (what I now recognize as) some really terrible writing! And what a gift his Chaucer class was! A gift of language . . . and of a generous spirit.  He was one of my three or four favorite teachers from Carleton.

    I'm about to teach some Chaucer for the first time.  Digging out my notes from his class!

  • 2016-09-16 12:09:13
    Deb Shostak

    Davis Taylor was an absolutely inspiring teacher. He asked us questions in class that were real questions for himself, and he was one of the best listeners I've ever encountered in the classroom--he made it clear that he wanted to hear our voices, not his own, as he led us through the alien but at once startlingly familiar pleasures of Chaucer's writing. He was gentle and generous to a fault, but I will also always be grateful to him for giving me the hardest lesson I ever had as an English major in the rigors of paper-writing; no one had ever before paid such close attention to what I wrote, and how. During my senior year, I had the supreme good fortune of reading, with Davis and two other senior majors, through Dante's Divine Comedy in translation, and I recall his delight in talking about the poem and listening to us three mumble through the Italian on the facing pages in our attempts to hear its beauty. That independent study is one of my clearest and most treasured memories of my college career. Because of Davis and the love of Chaucer he instilled in me, when I went to graduate school my aim was to study the literature of the Middle Ages, and while I was subsequently beguiled instead by modern fiction, what always stuck with me as I began my career was my hope to become a teacher even a tenth as good as Davis Taylor. Deb Shostak, Class of 1975

  • 2016-09-16 12:12:21
    Esther Schak '73

    I had Davis Taylor for my very first class at Carleton - a freshman writing seminar that was required at the time.  I think we were all very nervous, but his relaxed and kind manner made us believe that we might actually survive the rigors of writing at Carleton! I later became an English major and took at least one other class from Davis.  I always looked forward to him - he was a favorite.  I'm not surprised that he eventually had a counseling practice.  His empathy, generosity and kindness would must have made him a wonderful counselor.

  • 2016-09-16 16:15:10
    Mary Hackman '82

    One of my fondest Carleton memories: listening to Davis Taylor read Chaucer to my freshman English class. I'm sad to learn of his passing.  The world needs more souls like his. Condolences to his family and loved ones.

  • 2016-09-24 10:58:58
    John Padorr '76

    I took two courses from Davis, the first one a survey of 16th Century literature, centered around Edmund Spenser. Amazingly, at least to me, who thought Spenser was going to be impenetrably academic, Davis turned the Faerie Queen into a fabulous human canvas.  In the second course, a seminar on literary criticism - another potentially deadly dull subject - Davis steered the classroom in ways that, now that I think back on it, had a magician’s touch. What he was really teaching us was not so much how to read literary criticism but  to read both critically and passionately for ourselves. These are life-long lessons that have helped and enriched my life far beyond a senior seminar. Davis was a brilliant professor, and I hope these notes remind Davis’s family and friends how much he meant to his students.

  • 2020-11-03 12:40:19
    Glen Carleton

    Davis Taylor taught my remedial writing seminar fall term freshman year. For a nervous freshman returning to school after 2 gap years, his compassion and kindness were critical to my overcoming 'imposter syndrome' and believing that I could make it at Carleton. Of course my writing improved with his help and although I'll never be a good writer I'm grateful for him helping me along. For some reason I had not absorbed that the possessive "its" is not the same as the contraction "it's" and, thanks to Davis kindly but clearly correcting me, I think of him literally every time I write "XXX recovered its former ..."