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John Paterson, UC Berkeley professor and English novel scholar dies at age of 78
01 April 2002

By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations

Berkeley - John Paterson, emeritus professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and an influential scholar on the evolution and cultural impact on the English novel, died March 29 at the age of 78.

Paterson died at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, Calif., where he had been hospitalized toward the end of a long illness. He had been a resident of Greenbrae.

In his scholarship and teaching, Paterson considered the novel as a reflection of ordinary life and a kind of moral beacon for society. His particular focus was on the Edwardian period, but he encouraged his students to carry the analysis forward to modern novelists such as Jack Kerouac.

Born in Scotland, Paterson moved to Canada at the age of two with his parents and grew up in Montreal, where he graduated from McGill University in 1944. After earning a PhD degree at the University of Michigan, he taught briefly at Princeton University and then joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1956. He retired to emeritus status in 1985.

Always a popular teacher, Paterson served for a time in the 1970s as UC Berkeley's faculty-sponsored ombudsperson - helping students solve problems in their academic lives. His devotion to fairness and justice also was reflected in his service on the board of the Berkeley chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

A major work titled, "The Novel as Faith: The Gospel According to James, Hardy, Conrad, Joyce, Lawrence and Virginia Woolf," (Gambit Publishing) drew praise in 1974 in the New Yorker. "Mr. Paterson's urbane, intellectually sophisticated work describes what six important novelists imagined the novel could do aesthetically and where its dignity might be found," said a magazine review.

His final work, "Edwardians: London Life and Letters, 1901-1914" (I.R. Dee Publishing) was completed after he retired and published in 1996.

Paterson also wrote a number of articles, including one titled, "Hardboiled Detective Fiction," and he appeared as a host of a book program on public television.

"He was a good teacher and a very fine scholar," said Ralph Rader, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of English, who joined the faculty at the same time as Paterson. The former chair of the English department recalled Paterson as sweet, self-deprecating and an avid golfer.

Paterson is survived by his wife, Susanna B. Paterson of Greenbrae; son Andrew of Ellicot City, Md.; daughters Annan Paterson of Novato, Calif., Mary Cheadle of Seattle, Wash., Susannah Saunders of San Anselmo, Calif., Caithleen Paterson Zilorus of Putnam Valley, N.Y., and Nora Messinger of Putnam Valley, N.Y.; and by 15 grandchildren. Also surviving are his 100-year-old mother, Margaret, of Hamilton, Ontario; brother Archie of Ft. Worth, Texas; and sisters Margaret Patterson of Hamilton, Ontario and Sheila Wigmore, also of Hamilton, Ontario.

A memorial service will be held April 20 at St. John's Episcopal Church in Ross, Calif.