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Ralph W. Rader

Professor of English, Emeritus

UC Berkeley

1930 2007


Ralph W. Rader, professor emeritus of English at the University of California, Berkeley, died November 23, 2007, at the age of 77. With an undergraduate degree from Purdue University followed by a Ph.D. from Indiana University, Rader joined the Berkeley faculty in 1956, where he had a distinguished and varied career as a scholar, teacher, and administrator. His study of Alfred Lord Tennyson developed fresh information about the poet’s early love relationships and showed how these are centrally reflected in such poems as “Maud and “Locksley Hall.” The study is now cited in the standard edition of Tennyson’s poems and in biographies and encyclopedias. The Tennyson book was followed over the years by a number of seminal essays analyzing the varying relationship between fact and artistic form in a number of masterworks. His 1968 essay on Boswell’s Life of Johnson was praised by the then dean of Boswell studies, Professor Frederick Pottle, in his presidential address to the Johnson Society at Lichfield, as offering “by far the aptest” description of the structure of the Life that had ever been written, a judgment reaffirmed by Bruce Redford in his 2002 Oxford Press Lyell Lectures, when he speaks of Rader’s analysis as a “ground-breaking essay,” “the single most important study of the structural principles that shape the Life of Johnson.” Rader’s essays on the dramatic monologue and dramatic lyric have achieved parallel canonical status, as have his several essays on James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist and Ulysses. A major theorist of the novel as a genre, Rader developed in a series of seminal essays an original and influential interpretation of the emergence and development of the English novel as a form, an account that encompasses the masterworks of three centuries of English fiction.


Rader served as chair of the Department of English from 1976 to 1980 and again from 1994 to 1996. He was a member of the Editorial Committee of the University of California Press from 1963 to 1971, the last four years as co-chairman. He served three terms on the Committee to Visit the Harvard English Department, the last as chair, and was on the board of the Yale Boswell editions, as well as on the boards of various scholarly journals. He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1973.


Rader was an engaged and beloved teacher who taught even large lecture courses by the Socratic method. His graduate students have been widely successful as teachers, administrators, and as writers both scholarly and commercial. He taught four National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars. He was awarded a campus Distinguished Teaching Award in 1976 and was honored on his retirement with the Berkeley Citation “for distinguished achievement and notable service to the University.”


Rader is survived by his wife June; three daughters, Lois Wilson, of Paris, Nancy and Emily, of Berkeley, and two sons, Eric, of Manteca, and Michael, of Los Osos; and four grandchildren.


              Department of English