Photo of Joseph Pequigney
Joseph Pequigney

Joseph Pequigney

January 19, 2022

Farre Joseph Pequigney passed away peacefully at his home in Manhattan on January 19th, 2022. Joe was born in 1924 in Galveston, TX. He graduated from Notre Dame University in 1944, and earned an M.A. at the University of Minnesota in 1947. After a period in the novitiate and on the teaching faculty of St. John's University, he went to Harvard University where he earned his Ph.D. in 1959.
In 1960, Joe joined the original English Department faculty of Stony Brook University, where he taught until he retired in 1995. His early academic writing focused on Milton and Dante, but it was his teaching of Shakespearean drama and poetry combined with the experience of being a gay man that led him to his major work, Such Is My Love, a radical close reading of the sonnets. Although greeted with controversy at first, this book became a seminal work in Shakespeare and gay studies alike. Joe went on to write numerous articles on same-sex love as it appeared in Dante's Divine Comedy and English Renaissance drama, for publications like The Dante Encyclopedia; The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage; ELR: English Literary Renaissance, and Representations. In 2017 he received the GALA ND/SMC Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement, honoring the fact that themes "of same sex love are today recognized and taught with greater honesty as a result" of his work. For Joe, teaching was as important as scholarship; the clarity and passion of his thought inspired generations of students, some of whom credit him with profoundly shaping their subsequent paths.
Joe remained interested in Catholic thinking throughout his life. In an unpublished article, he discussed some important discrepancies between papal discourse and the foundational writing of Thomas Aquinas which contends that "ensoulment," what makes us human, does not occur at the moment of conception.
Joe loved friends and family, European travel, theatre, food, wine, and animated conversations about them all. Joy was effusive around his table, powered by his affection, his love of sharing, his wit, and very often by his heartfelt left-wing politics. The love he radiated enriched the lives of his husband, his siblings, his 11 nieces and nephews, and their children, all of whom happily acknowledge their "Uncle Bubba's" extensive influence on their lives.
Joe is survived by his husband and companion of 53 years, Steven Mays, his sister Margaret Cashion of Jackson, MS, the aforementioned nieces and nephews, their children, and their children's children. He was predeceased by his parents Margaret Dugey Pequigney and Frank Pequigney, and by his sister Dorothy Shepherd Davison, all of Galveston, TX.

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The riches that Joe added to my life shines above the loss which is great. Joe remains joy married to keen intellect. He was energy and discernment. My memories and love warm me even now as we all mourn.


Posted by: Andrew Appel - Craryville, NY - January 30, 2022

Dear Joe. Every time I arrived from Paris we would have a long and extended talk about politics befor moving on to books, philosophy and art. You could never think of Joe without Steven without Joe. Joe, my friend.


Posted by: Barbara Giudice - Paris, Feance, - January 31, 2022

Uncle Bubba, it was a blessed day the day Steve (your nephew), introduced me to you and Stevven. What a spark you both added to our lives.
Your adventures in Italy are what inspired us to go. Thank you for your love, intellect, and kindness.
I love your dedication to Steven in Such is Love
"be most proud of that which I compile, whose influence is thine and born of thee"
Love you Uncle Bubba


Posted by: Stephanie Cole - Cypress, TX - February 1, 2022

I knew Joe my whole life and it's been all the richer. Feeling lucky, and sad, and grateful. All my love to Steven and Cathy and extended family.


Posted by: Ursula Abrams - Troy, NY - February 1, 2022

For upwards of twenty years, Joe and I shared the drive from our Greenwich Village apartments to our offices and classrooms at Stony Brook, and back again many hours later. I drove, Joe talked, I answered, he counter-answered, and so it went through the Midtown Tunnel, the LIE, Northern State Parkway, and any number of local roads. I doubt there is any significant text in 16th, 17th, or 18th century English literature that we didn't hammer out not to mention frequent excursions into Dante's Commedia, which we both loved, and even more frequent deplorings of New York and national politics. To say we were friends and colleagues is understatement, and I sorely missed those dialogic drives when Joe retired some years before me. They will always be my characteristic memories of Joe -- him speaking with quiet passion about a Shakespeare sonnet, while I swerved frantically around a suddenly stopped truck in the middle lane of the Long Island Expressway. That particular image says a great deal to me, and I treasure it. Goodbye, Joe.


Posted by: Tom Maresca - New York, NY - February 2, 2022

For upwards of twenty years, Joe and I shared the drive from our Greenwich Village apartments to our offices and classrooms at Stony Brook, and back again many hours later. I drove, Joe talked, I answered, he counter-answered, and so it went through the Midtown Tunnel, the LIE, Northern State Parkway, and any number of local roads. I doubt there is any significant text in 16th, 17th, or 18th century English literature that we didn't hammer out not to mention frequent excursions into Dante's Commedia, which we both loved, and even more frequent deplorings of New York and national politics. To say we were friends and colleagues is understatement, and I sorely missed those dialogic drives when Joe retired some years before me. They will always be my characteristic memories of Joe -- him speaking with quiet passion about a Shakespeare sonnet, while I swerved frantically around a suddenly stopped truck in the middle lane of the Long Island Expressway. That particular image says a great deal to me, and I treasure it. Goodbye, Joe.


Posted by: Thomas Maresca - New York, NY - February 2, 2022

I am still processing the loss of our Joe, that massive intellect, gifted teacher, unparalleled mentor, subtle humorist, generous colleague, gracious gentleman, wise, joyful, and loving friend. We discussed politics, literature, history, family, travel, philosophy, and our personal and professional lives, he with unrelenting passion and selfless concern. He was a once-in-a-lifetime friend who, when he believes in you, causes you to believe in yourself. How do you say good-bye to that?


Posted by: Barbara Smith - Flushing, NY - February 4, 2022

Oh Joe, how can it be that you are gone? You were always present, through all those years, from the time I met you, shortly after I had started my first teaching position, in a large group of recently graduated Harvard English professors meeting cheerfully every other week in Cambridge. You were always present, through all my other positions...always friendly, always supportive even through your or my crises...until suddenly I found myself teaching at the same university as you, with some of the same students and colleagues, still the same wonderful friend, now living close enough so we could share our entertainment choices and frequent dinner engagements in the wealth of New York's and your home's offerings. I miss you, Joe...I will always miss you and think gratefully of those numerous past years.


Posted by: Eleonore Zimmermann - South Setauket, NY - February 23, 2022

Joe and I are distant relatives - I discovered him while doing genealogy research in the 90s, and we met once in Manhattan during a business trip of mine. He was such a gentleman, and provided some family details that I documented. The research showed with near certainty that anyone with our name was related - and this included an offshoot branch that changed the name to "Pickney." The name origin is related to the French town of Picquigny that my sister and I have both visited - it has a small place in history. My condolences to family and friends - age 97 is a very full life, and I hope that it was joyful to the end.


Posted by: Stephen Pequigney - Ellicott City, MD - February 24, 2022

Joseph Pequigney was my teacher for Milton and Shakespeare at Stony Brook University. He recommend me for a teaching assistantship at Stony
Brook helping me to earn a PhD. I loved his courses and I loved him. He was a committed teacher who inspired me as a teacher. I will always remember him. My condolences to his spouse and family.
Kathleen Kern


Posted by: Kathleen Kern - Setauket, NY - April 8, 2022

Although I had Professor Pequigney as my professor over 30 years ago, I will never forget him. I was in his Shakespearean Tragedies course and I went home so excited about learning after each class. He spoke with such enthusiasm and made me see Shakespeare in a whole new light. I brought what I learned from him into my teaching of high school students. In addition to being a wonderful and inspirational teacher, Professor Pequigney was a kind and encouraging man. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family.


Posted by: Carol Hay - Plymouth, MA - April 8, 2022

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