In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Charles Kaplan

August 26, 2009

The English Department mourns the loss of Professor Emeritus Charles Kaplan, 90, who died of congestive heart failure on August 22, 2009.A founding member of the English Department at CSUN, Charles Kaplan served as the department’s first chairperson. Nationally, he was renowned for his work in promoting literary criticism and theory. His numerous publications included The Overwrought Urn; Literature in America: The Modern Age; Critical Approaches to the Short Story; Guided Composition; and Criticism: Major Statements (the third and fourth editions with co-editor William Anderson). Charles was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, France (1963-64), and he served on the inaugural board of the California Council for the Humanities. He testified as a literary expert in the defense of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer in its landmark 1962 obscenity trial.

Like many of today’s students, Charles was the child of immigrants. Born on May 15, 1919, in Chicago, he grew up during the Depression, with his father working as a streetcar conductor and insurance salesman and his mother working as an expert seamstress in a dress shop. Charles attended Wright Junior College and later enrolled in the University of Chicago, where he graduated with his B.A. in English in 1940. Receiving his M.A. in 1942, he worked in the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II. After his discharge, he attended Northwestern University, where the eminent Melville scholar and American literature professor Leon Howard directed his doctoral dissertation on Frank Norris. When he moved to California in 1954, Charles taught first at Los Angeles State College (now CSULA) and then at San Fernando Valley State College (now CSUN).

Upon his retirement from CSUN, Charles worked as a volunteer reader for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. After moving to Chapel Hill, NC, in 2004, he led the book club and play-reading clubs at his retirement community, and he taught adult education courses at Duke University.

Charles died at the Dubose Wellness Center in Chapel Hill. His first wife Gerry Weber having died in 1981, he is survived by his second wife Mary Anne Peterson; his three children from his first marriage, Jean Kaplan Teichroew of Silver Spring, MD; Robert Barry Kaplan of Rancho Palos Verdes; and Claire Brees of San Francisco; and two grandchildren, Jacob Peter Teichroew of New York and Peter Kaplan Teichroew of Silver Spring.

In response to many requests to honor her father and his lifetime achievements in a lasting way, Jean Kaplan Teichroew has informed the department that interested parties should direct their contributions to the CSUN English Department’s Faculty Scholarship, which is designed to provide student recognition and support. Checks can be made out to: CSUN Foundation. Importantly, the memo line should state: English Faculty Scholarship.