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Paul J. Alpers (1932–2013)

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, October 22, 2013

[Please see the page on the UC Berkeley website for the full obituary]

Paul Alpers, a UC Berkeley professor of English for 38 years, died 19 May 2013 at his home in Northampton, Mass. He was the husband of Smith College President Carol Christ, who served as Berkeley’s executive vice chancellor and provost from 1994 to 2000.

Alpers, who had been battling cancer, was the founding director of UC Berkeley’s Townsend Center for the Humanities, a former chair of the English Department, a 1972 winner of the Distinguished Teaching Award, and the Class of 1942 Professor of English Emeritus. He retired from the faculty in 2002, the year his wife began her new post at Smith. At Smith, Alpers was a professor in residence in the Department of English Language and Literature.

Alpers’ first book, The Poetry of the Faerie Queene, introduced a new way of reading English poet Edmund Spenser. In his second book, on Virgil’s Eclogues, he initiated his work on the pastoral genre of literature, art and music. His next book, What is Pastoral? was a foundational work that won both the Christian Gauss Award and the Harry Levin Award. He also was a founding editor of the journal Representations, which was first published by UC Press in 1983.

Alpers was born on Oct.16, 1932, and received his B.A. and Ph.D. in English from Harvard University. During his career, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the American Philosophical Society.

He is survived by his wife, Carol Christ; his sons, Benjamin and Nicholas Alpers; his stepchildren Jonathan and Elizabeth Sklute; four grandchildren; two brothers, David and Edward Alpers; and his former wife, Svetlana Alpers.

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