Frank Aristides Doggett (May 4, 1906 – September 9, 2002) was an educator in the Duval County Florida school system and an independent scholar who was an early authority on the American Modernist poet, Wallace Stevens. He was born in Jacksonville, Florida, earned a Bachelor’s degree at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida and his Master’s degree at Emory University. He received an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Florida in 1967 for his contributions toward the understanding of Stevens’ work.
Doggett wrote numerous essays and two books on Stevens, Stevens’ Poetry of Thought (Johns Hopkins University Press 1966) and, Wallace Stevens, The Making of the Poem (Johns Hopkins University Press 1980). He co-edited Wallace Stevens: A Celebration (Princeton University Press 1980) with Robert Buttel of Temple University.
The son of a prominent Jacksonville attorney, Frank Doggett was the youngest of four children. His family residence is still located at 1548 Lancaster Terrace in Jacksonville’s historic Riverside area. Even as an adolescent, he had a very strong passion for literature and became aware of Stevens’ poetry when he was a 21 year old student. However, Doggett, a self-professed “goof-off” at that point in his life, did not seem likely to become a scholar. An unsuccessful student, first at Yale and then at the University of Florida, he transferred to Rollins College where met and fell in love with poet and fellow student, Dorothy Emerson. A serious-minded person, Emerson initially would have little to do with him and told him he would have to settle down and study to win her attention. He did so and, in 1933, they married and shared a life devoted to literature for almost 60 years until her death in 1993. They had two children.
After graduating from Rollins in 1931, Doggett went to New York with the aim of entering the publishing world. He soon discovered that his chances there were bleak due to the effects of the Great Depression. With the financial support of his father, Doggett attended Emory but then went back to Jacksonville and became an English teacher at Landon High School. He and his wife lived at the Jacksonville Beaches. As the communities there grew, construction of Duncan U. Fletcher High School began and, in 1937, when the school opened, Frank Doggett became its founding principal. With the exception of a brief stint in the Navy during World War II, he was the principal there until 1964 when the school was divided and the original facility became a junior high. He then became the first principal of the new senior high and remained in that position until two years before his retirement in 1971. He has been acknowledged in the community for sustaining a strong academic focus at the school and for providing inspiration to so many students who subsequently continued their education at colleges throughout the country – some gaining admission to schools that far exceeded their initial expectations.
For a variety of reasons, Frank Doggett did not pursue his passion for literature or his career as a literary critic in the usual manner of scholars. As a high school principal, he was generally denied the affiliations that come to someone immersed in academia. And yet, he earned a great deal of scholarly recognition. Helen Vendler, Stevens scholar and professor of English at Boston and Harvard Universities, once stated that she was indebted to Doggett’s work and felt that the barriers to pursuing a life of letters without an academic position would make doing so possible only for those with “great commitment and talent.” In Doggett’s case, commitment and talent were combined with an intense collaboration with his wife, who was both his biggest literary ally and harshest critic. He was always emphatic that all his writing was the “result of a continuing dialogue with her” and that literature was their principal topic of conversation. A number of her poems have been published in Poetry and the Yale Review and a collection of her poems, Eve’s Primer, was published by the Wallace Stevens Society in 1991.
Frank Doggett was also an accomplished fisherman. He held several light-tackle world records during his life and, despite the demands of his job and literary career, could be found on many Saturday mornings, rod in hand, in his boat on the ocean or at some favorite fishing hole.
Dipped in Sky: A Study of Percy MacKaye’s Kentucky Mountain Cycle. New York: Longmans Green, 1930.
Stevens Poetry of Thought. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966.
Wallace Stevens: The Making of the Poem. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.
Ed. with Robert Buttel. Wallace Stevens: A Celebration. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1980.
Essays in books:
“Repetitions of a Young Prince” Thematic Recurrence in Hamlet.” In All These to Teach: Essays in Honor of C. A. Robertson. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 1965.
“This Invented World: Stevens’ ‘Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction’.” In The Act of the Mind. Ed. Roy Harvey Pearce and J. Hillis Miller. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1965.
“Our Nature is Her Nature.” In The Twenties: Poetry and Prose. Ed. Richard E. Langford and William E. Taylor. DeLand, FL: Edward Everett Press, 1966.
“Stevens’ Later Poetry.” In Critics on Wallace Stevens. Ed. Peter L. McNamara. Coral Gables, FL. University of Miami Press, 1972.
“Variations on a Nude.” In Wallace Stevens. Ed. Irvine Ehrenpreis. West Drayton, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1972.
Authored with Dorothy Emerson. “On Stevens’ Comments on Several Poems.” In The Motivation for Metaphor. Ed. Frances C. Blessinglon and Guy Rotella. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1983.
Essays in periodicals: “Stevens’ ‘It Must Change VI’.” The Explicator. No. 16 (Feb. 1957); “Wallace Stevens’ Later Poetry.” ELH. No. 15 (June 1958); “Wallace Stevens’ Secrecy of Words: A Note on Import in Poetry.” New England Quarterly. No. 31 (Sept. 1958); “Wallace Stevens and the World We Know.” English Journal. No. 48 (Oct. 1959); “Abstractions and Wallace Stevens.” Criticism. No. 2 (Winter 1960); “Stevens’ ‘Woman Looking at a Vase of Flowers.’” The Explicator. No. 19 (Nov. 1960); “The Poet of Earth: Wallace Stevens.” College English. No. 22 (March 1961); “This Invented World: Stevens’ ‘Note Toward a Supreme Fiction.’” ELH. No. 28 (Sept. 1961); “Why Read Wallace Stevens?” Emory University Quarterly. No. 17 (Summer 1962); “Stevens’ River That Flows Nowhere.” Chicago Review. No. 15 (Summer 1962); “The Transition from Harmonium: Factors in the Development of Stevens’ Later Poetry.” PMLA. Vol. 88, No. 1 (Jan. 1973); “Romanticism’s Singing Bird.” Studies in English Literature. Vol. 14, No. 4 (Autumn 1974); “Stevens on the Genesis of a Poem.” Contemporary Literature. Vol. 16, No. 4 (Autumn 1975); “A Primer of Possibility for ‘The Auroras of Autumn.’” The Wallace Stevens Journal. Vol. 13, No. 1 (Spring 1989)
- World Finest Beaches: A Brief History Of The Jacksonville Beaches. Donald J. Mabry. Charleston, S. C.: History Press, 2010
- The Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida. September 12, 2002
- Humanities Report, American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities. Vol. IV, No. 3 (March 1982)
- The Beaches Leader/Ponte Vedra Leader. Jacksonville Beach, Florida. (September 4, 2002)
Frank Doggett: Online Obituary