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CSUN English professor

September 04, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Charles Kaplan, 90, the first chairman of the English department at what is now Cal State Northridge, died Aug. 22 of congestive heart failure at Dubose Wellness Center in Chapel Hill, N.C., said Jean Kaplan Teichroew, one of his three children.

He was nationally renowned for his work in promoting literary criticism and theory, according to CSUN.

As a literary expert, Kaplan testified in the 1962 obscenity trial in Los Angeles over the sale of the Henry Miller book "Tropic of Cancer." Kaplan called the book "mainstream literature" that left little to the imagination, but the jury returned a guilty verdict that was overturned two years later.

He was born in 1919 in Chicago to Bernard Kaplan, a streetcar conductor and insurance salesman, and his wife, Lillian, a seamstress.

In 1940, Kaplan earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Chicago and followed it with a master's in 1942. After working in the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II, he earned a doctorate from Northwestern University.

He moved to California in 1954 to teach at what is now Cal State L.A. and in the late 1950s helped found CSUN's English department. The longtime Granada Hills resident retired from CSUN in 1988 and moved to Chapel Hill in 2004.

Among several books Kaplan published was "The Overwrought Urn" (1970), about literary parody, which was one of his favorite subjects to teach, his daughter said.

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