William Galperin Wins Research Award
by Ronah Sadan
Professor William Galperin’s seemingly inexhaustible energy always makes for engrossing conversation. That same intensity permeates his scholarly work, and his prolific twenty years at Rutgers have yielded three books, twenty-eight published essays, and numerous reviews. The consistently refreshing and often provocative content of his criticism has marked him, in the words of a colleague, as “one of the boldest and most original Romanticists of his generation.” No wonder Professor Galperin won the 2004 Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Research.
Despite the vast libraries of scholarly work on nineteenth-century Romanticism and realism, Professor Galperin never fails to find perspectives that surprise and challenge traditional outlooks on oft-studied texts. Yet his unorthodox literary approaches somehow manage to be simultaneously groundbreaking and responsible, and he is often solicited to give papers at conferences or contribute essays to influential journals and books.
Professor Galperin’s newest book is a case in point. The Historical Austen has been hailed as “consistently provocative” in one review and as “a signal work for current Romantic studies” in another. Harnessing a widely researched and historicized understanding of the subject, Professor Galperin succeeds in stirring up the usual critical consensus on Jane Austen’s canon. The Historical Austen reveals the writer’s texts as even richer than most critics allow. In it, Professor Galperin pairs a formal analysis of her detailed depictions of everyday life with an exploration of her contemporaries’ reactions to them. Through these readings, Professor Galperin illuminates complex and previously unmarked tensions in her works, arguing against simpler interpretations of Austen as either obviously conservative or subtly subversive. This new approach has earned Professor Galperin many invitations to lecture on the topic, as well as a position editing new scholarly versions of Emma and Persuasion.
As his former students know, the unconventionality of Professor Galperin’s approach to literature renders his classes unforgettable. He enlivens graduate and undergraduate discussions with a contagious enthusiasm and self-consciously dramatic presentation of provocative ideas. Students frequently react to his bold critical positions with surprise and contention, sparking passionate classroom debates that lead to deeper understandings of the issues at stake. One evaluation called his classes “fun, exhausting, and educational in the extreme.”
As usual, the dust has barely settled on his last project and Professor Galperin is on to something new. He is currently completing a study on the relationship between Lord and Lady Byron. After his success in creating controversy about the staid Jane Austen, one can only imagine what Professor Galperin will say about the flamboyant Romantic poet.