Emeritus English professor who wrote Jane Austen biography dies

John W. Halperin

John W. Halperin, Centennial Professor of English, emeritus, died March 1 at his home in La Jolla, California. He was 76 years old. The cause of death was heart failure.

Halperin was a prolific author and editor whose books included The Language of Meditation (1973), Egoism and Self-Discovery in the Victorian Novel (1974), The Theory of the Novel (1974), Trollope and Politics (1977), Jane Austen’s Lovers (1988), Novelists in their Youth (1990), and Eminent Georgians (1995), as well as biographies of Jane Austen, George Gissing and C. P. Snow and editions of the novels of Trollope, Gissing, George Meredith and Henry James. He was short-listed twice for the Pulitzer Prize for Biography for his books Gissing: A Life in Books and The Life of Jane Austen.

Halperin, who was born Sept. 15, 1941, in Chicago was the son of S. William Halperin, a professor of history at the University of Chicago, and Elaine P. Halperin, a translator and editor.

Halperin received a bachelor of arts from Bowdoin College in 1963 and a master of arts from the University of New Hampshire in 1966. Three years later he earned a master of arts and a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, where his dissertation was titled “The Language of Meditation: Four Studies in 19th-Century Fiction.”

Halperin taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the University of Southern California before joining the Vanderbilt faculty as Centennial Professor of English in 1983. He was awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships as well as fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Vanderbilt Research Council. He also was named an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

At Vanderbilt, he was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award by the College of Arts and Science and the Outstanding Educator Award by Peabody College. He became an emeritus professor in 2007.

Halperin is survived by his brother, David M. Halperin, and family members Charles Prentice Cole, Eric Prentice Cole, Charles Michael Cole and Amanda Elaine Cole.