Robert Hood Cockburn
Robert Hood Cockburn (writer, poet, and professor) was born in Port Chester, New York, on 10 January 1938. He was the son of Helen Cockburn, homemaker, and Robert Cockburn, sales manager. Cockburn attended high school in Oceanside, Long Island, and graduated in 1955. After graduating, he attended Colby College for two years but withdrew due to financial difficulties. In 1960, he enrolled in the forestry program at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) but soon realized his interest in English and transferred to the arts. He graduated with a BA (Honors) in 1964 and pursued his MA in 1964–66, during which time he was a teacher’s assistant at UNB.
In 1966–67, Cockburn began his university teaching at Acadia University, where he specialized in English and Canadian literature. In 1968, he returned to UNB to teach English, where he remained for thirty-six years (1968–2003). While there, he also volunteered his time coaching the UNB Rugby Football Club for thirty-one years (1968–99) and spent several of those years coaching for the provincial team. Cockburn was also chair of the Department of English from 1977–87. He taught a number of popular courses such as Literature of the Outdoors, Travel Literature, Sports and Literature, and Literature of Fear and Suspense. During his career, he supervised eight PhD and twenty-one MA students.
Besides teaching, Cockburn wrote poetry in his early career (until 1981), then criticism. His poetry has appeared in six anthologies and twenty-two journals, including Canadian Forum, Dalhousie Review, and Canadian Poetry. In 1970, he published The Novels of Hugh MacLennan, a full-length critical work. He has also edited several books, including Ninety Seasons: Modern Poems from the Maritimes (1974), Sleeping Island: The Story of One Man’s Travels in the Great Barren Lands of the Canadian North (1988), and Toward Magnetic North: The Oberholtzer–Magee 1912 Canoe Journey to Hudson Bay (2000). In addition, he contributed to Rupert’s Land: A Cultural Tapestry (1989), Lobsticks and Stone Cairns: Human Landmarks in the Artic (1996), and Contemporary Literary Criticism (“Two Solitudes,” Vol. 92, 1996). Articles by Cockburn on far northern travelers and explorers can be found in Appalachia, Arctic: Journal of the Arctic Institute of North America, The Beaver, and The Journal of Polar Studies. His criticism reflects his interest in exploration, the literature of war, and the literature of travel and the outdoors.
Cockburn’s major fellowships and awards include the Marshall D’Avry Prize in English (1963), the Archdeacon Forsyth Prize in English (1964), the Bliss Carman Memorial Prize (1964), the Sir Charles G.D. Roberts Prize (1964), the Canada Council Leave Fellowship (1972–73), UNB Research Grants (1982–85, 1987, 1989, 1992), a SSHRC Research Grant (1986–87), and the UNB Faculty Merit Award (1986). His teams also won several UNB Rugby Football Championships.
Cockburn was a demanding but encouraging instructor who taught his many students to strive for excellence. Though a latecomer to New Brunswick, he became one of the great readers of New Brunswick books. Few are as well read in provincial history, culture, and literature. He continues to live in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Mallory Pinnock, Winter 2008
St. Thomas University
Bibliography of Primary Sources
Cockburn, Robert. “After-Images of Rupert’s Land.” Rupert’s Land: A Cultural Tapestry. Ed. Richard C. Davis. Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier UP, 1989. 273-296.
---. “Canadian Literature.” Merit Students Encyclopedia. New York: MacMillian, 1977. 141-47.
---. “Ernest C. Oberholtzer.” Lobsticks and Stone Cairns: Human Landmarks in the Arctic. Ed. Richard C. Davis. Calgary, AB: U of Calgary, 1996. 130-133.
---. Friday Night Fredericton. Fredericton, NB: New Brunswick Poetry Chapbooks, 1968.
---. “Interview With Alden Nowlan.” The Fiddlehead 81 (1969): 5-13.
---. Introduction. A Voice From the Attic. By Robertson Davies. Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart, 1972. viii-xii.
---. “The Last Adventures.” Copperfield 4 (1972): 49-52.
---. The Novels of Hugh MacLennan. Montreal, PQ: Harvest House Ltd, 1970.
---. “Prentice G. Downes.” Lobsticks and Stone Cairns: Human Landmarks in the Arctic. Ed. Richard C. Davis. Calgary, AB: U of Calgary, 1996. 134-136.
---. “R.M. Ballantyne.” Lobsticks and Stone Cairns: Human Landmarks in the Arctic. Ed. Richard C. Davis. Calgary, AB: U of Calgary, 1996. 127-129.
---. That Far Shore. New Brunswick Poetry Chapbooks 21. Fredericton, NB: New Brunswick Poetry Chapbooks, 1975.
---. “Thomas Raddall.” The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature. 2nd ed. Ed. Eugene Benson and William Toye. Toronto, ON: Oxford UP, 1997. 984-985.
---. “Two Solitudes." The Novels of Hugh MacLennan. Montreal: Harvest House Ltd, 1970. 47-69. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 92. Ed. Brigham Narins. Detroit: Gage Research Inc., 1996. 298-305.
---. “Warburton Pike.” Lobsticks and Stone Cairns: Human Landmarks in the Arctic. Ed. Richard C. Davis. Calgary, AB: U of Calgary, 1996. 166-168.
Cockburn, Robert, ed. Distant Summers: P.G. Downes' Journals of Travels in Northern Canada, 1936–1947. by P.G. Downes. Illus. Kate Prince. Forgotten Northern Classics 2. Ottawa: McGahern Stewart, 2012.
---. Sleeping Island: The Story of One Man’s Travels in the Great Barren Lands of the Canadian North. By P.G. Downes. Spectra Series. Saskatoon, SK: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1988.
---. Toward Magnetic North: The Oberholtzer–Magee 1912 Canoe Journey to Hudson Bay. Marshall, MN: The Oberholtzer Foundation, 2000.
Cockburn, Robert and Robert Gibbs, eds. Ninety Seasons: Modern Poems from the Maritimes. Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart, 1974.
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
Barbour, Douglas. Rev. of The Novels of Hugh MacLennan. Canadian Literature 49 (Summer 1971): 75-77.
Estok, Michael. Rev. of Ninety Seasons: Modern Poems from the Maritimes. Dalhousie Review 54 (Spring 1974): 552-557.
“Faculty at UNB English.” Department of English. Feb. 2008. U of New Brunswick. 5 Nov. 2008
Pinnock, Mallory. Interview With Robert Cockburn. 17 Nov. 2008.
“Summary of Accomplishments for Emeritus Honorees, Encaenia Ceremony B: May 20, 2004—Robert H. Cockburn.” Emeritus. May 2004. U of New Brunswick. 5 Nov. 2008