Norman Fruman, an educator and scholar best known for his biography of the English poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge, died on April 19, at his home in Laguna Beach, of cancer. He was 88.
Born in the Bronx, New York, on Dec. 2, 1923, Fruman was the son of Russian immigrants. He attended Townsend Harris Hall, a high school for gifted boys, and then the City College of New York. In 1943, he was drafted into the army as an infantry private and later sent to officer candidate school. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, he became the youngest combat platoon leader in the 42nd Infantry, the famed “Rainbow Division.” In late 1944, Fruman took part in the Battle of the Bulge, and was taken prisoner while his unit tried to defend the town of Offendorf on the French/German border. He was liberated in April, 1945. After WWII, Fruman graduated from City College and then received his master’s in education from Columbia and a Ph.D. in English from New York University. During this period he also worked as a writer-editor at The American Comics Group and as a freelance writer.
Fruman was an award-winning English professor at both California State University, Los Angeles (1959–78) and the University of Minnesota (1978–94). He was also a Fulbright Professor at the University of Tel Aviv and a visiting scholar at various universities in France.
Professor Fruman’s controversial book, “Coleridge, The Damaged Archangel” (1971) exposed a previously unacknowledged pattern of plagiarism in the famous poet’s work. Among the book’s hundred mostly favorable reviews, the London Times Literary Supplement called it the most important Coleridge study since John Livingston Lowes’s “Road to Xanadu” (1927). It’s now considered a landmark in the field.
In 1994, Fruman was one of the leading initiators of the Association of Literary Scholars, and Critics, now the ALSCW. But in an interview in 2010, he acknowledged that it was “The Damaged Archangel” for which he was likely to be best remembered: “It made me both famous and infamous.”
Prof. Fruman was a summer resident of Laguna Beach from 1970-1995 and a full time resident thereafter. He is survived by his beloved wife of 53 years, Doris, and by three adoring children and four grandchildren.