Philip Purser (1979–2015)

OEN 45.3 (2014)


Philip A. Purser published three articles on early medieval culture before his untimely death. The most recent, “Heathenism in Beowulf,” appeared in Teaching Beowulf in the Twenty-first Century, ed. H.D. Chickering, Allen J. Frantzen, and R.F. Yeager (Tempe: Arizona State University Press, 2014). Purser received his Ph.D. from Georgia State University in 2013; his dissertation, “Her Syndan Wælcyrian: Illuminating the Form and Function of the Valkyrie-Figure in the Literary, Mythological, and Social Consciousness of Anglo-Saxon England,” was written under the direction of Edward John Christie. Purser received an M.A. from the University of West Georgia in 2007 and his B.S. Ed. from the University of Georgia in 2003. At the time of his death he was teaching at Hillsborough Community College, Tampa, Florida. He had previously taught at Lander University and Mercer University.

A relative newcomer to Old English studies, Purser was a much-published authority on wildlife and a well-regarded herpetologist. He wrote his first article on wildlife when he was nineteen. In addition to dozens of articles on lizards, snakes, and freshwater fish cultivation, he published nine guidebooks, including Insect-Eating Lizards (2008) and Good Snakekeeping: A Comprehensive Guide to All Things Serpentine (2010). The former was once featured as a prop in a major network sitcom and the latter was nominated for a USA Book News Award in 2011. Purser was a ranger in the George Department of Natural Resources before he began his academic career. At home anywhere, and rarely without a story to tell, Purser was never happier than when he was walking the foothills of northwest Georgia observing the wildlife around him. Anglo-Saxonists have lost a colleague with a rare understanding of the natural world and a deep love of ancient languages and literatures. He was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer in December 2014 and died February 10, 2015.


—Allen J. Frantzen