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Obituary: Vernon Chamberlin

Monday, February 10, 2020  


AATSP is sad to announce the death of long-time member Vernon Chamberlin.

Vernon Chamberlin
(1924 - 2020) 

The distinguished scholar of 19th century Spanish literature, Vernon Chamberlin, died at age 95 on January 25, 2020. At the time of his death he was Professor of Spanish Emeritus at the University of Kansas. Vernon received his BA from Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas and his MA and PhD from the University of Kansas. His dissertation, written under William Shoemaker, was on blind characters in the novels of Galdós. Before his definitive arrival at the University of Kansas, Vernon had taught in public and private high schools, at UCLA, and at Oklahoma State University.

Vernon was the author of the books Galdós and Beethoven: Fortunata y Jacinta: A Symphonic Novel (Tamesis) and the retrospective “The Perils of Interpreting Fortunata’s Dream”and Other Studies in Galdós (Juan de la Cuesta). He co-authored (with William Bull) Clarín: The Critic in Action (Oklahoma State UP) and (with Iván Schulman) La Revista Ilustrada de Nueva York: History, Anthology and Index of Literary Selections (U of Missouri P). Vernon was an internationally known interpreter of Galdós. He published some 100 articles and as many reviews on Galdós and his contemporaries: Pardo Bazán, Clarín, Valera, Pereda, Blasco Ibáñez, and Palacio Valdés. His principal focuses were name, color, and animal symbolism; word plays; novelistic structure; dreams; and the relationship between fiction and music. Knowing both German and Russian, he published various articles and reviews of German and Russian books on Galdós. He was for a time book review editor of Anales Galdosianos. He was editor of the 1970 monographic number of Hispania dedicated to Galdós. Though much of his work involved Galdós’s novelas contemporáneas, in his final years he also was publishing studies on the late episodios nacionales. His final study appeared in 2019, but he was working on others. A book chapter is soon to appear.

Vernon was a gentle, patient (and very often humorous) man who loved his wife and family, vacationing often in the mountains of Colorado. The hobby he shared with his wife Marilyn was compiling family genealogies. He spent countless hours each week in the library, but he made time for church and civic involvement. His students found him easy to get along with, but he was insistent upon the need for rigorously used bibliographies. He did not tolerate a student “going it alone” or basing an argument on textually unsubstantiated hunches. He always patiently outlined things and searched for the evidence before he wrote. Honesty was his watchword. He was not ashamed of asking for help, and he had the kindness to acknowledge his helpers in his published studies. After his own students graduated, he took an interest in their work and helped them with sources if they asked him. He was not afraid to tell you if your ideas seemed wrong, but he did not berate you for your lack of knowledge. He soon became the true friend that you wanted to work with.


Written by Tom Franz, Ohio University

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