Philip Roth, English

Philip Roth, renowned novelist and former adjunct professor of English at Penn, died in Manhattan on May 22 from congestive heart failure. He was 85.

Mr. Roth was born in Newark,  New Jersey. He attended Bucknell for his undergraduate degree and then received his master’s degree in English from the University of Chicago. He was known for exploring themes around what it means to be human, American and Jewish in his works. Goodbye, Columbus, his first book, published in 1959, earned him a National Book Award. Portnoy’s Complaint, American Pastoral, and The Human Stain are among his other works.

In 1970, Mr. Roth was hired as a lecturer at Penn, becoming an adjunct professor in the mid-1970s. He taught English for more than a decade at the University of Pennsylvania.  Joel Conarroe, former SAS dean, President Emeritus of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and chair of Penn’s undergraduate English department during Mr. Roth’s tenure, recalled, “Philip’s classes . . . were much in demand and highly regarded. Students would start lining up at 4:30 a.m. during registration periods in hopes of getting into his class. Those who may have expected a stand-up comic discovered instead a serious man of letters who introduced them to Flaubert, Kafka, Dostoevsky and Colette, among others. He also introduced them—and his departmental colleagues—to writers from “The Other Europe,” eastern bloc novelists such as Milan Kundera and Bruno Schulz whose work he [was] responsible for bringing to the attention of American readers.”

Mr. Roth won two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle awards, three PEN/Faulkner Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Man Booker International Prize.