Scholar Ruel E. Foster (November 30, 1916-November 10, 1999) joined the faculty of West Virginia University in 1941. He chaired the English Department and served as Benedum Distinguished Professor of American Literature.
Foster was born in Springfield, Kentucky. A graduate of the University of Kentucky, Foster received his doctorate from Vanderbilt University. There he was influenced by the so-called ‘‘Fugitives,’’ writers who advanced agrarian values in life and literature. He was a close friend of writers Donald Davidson, Jesse Stuart, and Robert Penn Warren. Foster’s books include William Faulkner: A Critical Appraisal (1951), Elizabeth Madox Roberts, American Novelist (1956), Jesse Stuart (1965), and (with Bob Conner) Buck: A Life Sketch of James H. Harless (1992). His literary criticism often dealt with the Southern literary renaissance. He was widely published as a poet and critic.
Foster believed that ‘‘the greatest American writers had a strong sense of place, from Cooper to Thoreau to Twain, Wolfe, Faulkner, and Hemingway.’’ Appalachian literature was a main interest. His reviews of the works of West Virginia writers regularly appeared in literary journals, as well as state newspapers. He encouraged native writers, wrote forewords to some of their books, and after his retirement in 1987 continued to lecture and counsel. Alumni voted him ‘‘most effective teacher’’ at WVU in 1996. He served as tennis coach for six years. Foster was awarded the university’s highest honor, membership in the Order of Vandalia.
This Article was written by Norman Julian
Last Revised on October 23, 2012
Lofstead, Becky. Joys of Retiring in Morgantown. West Virginia University Alumni Magazine, (Summer 1994).
Morgantown Dominion Post, 11/11/1999.
"Farewell, Dr. Foster." West Virginia University English Department Newsletter. (Feb. 2000).