Campus News

Emeritus Professor of English Carl Peterson Dies

March 1, 2017

Communications Staff

Carl Peterson, emeritus professor of English at Oberlin College and former department chair, died on March 1, in Oberlin. He was 86 years old.

Born in 1930 in Warren, Pennsylvania, he received a BA in history and English from Pennsylvania State University and a PhD from University of Wisconsin, Madison with a concentration in 18th- and 19th-century English literature. Throughout his academic career, a major focus of his work was the interrelation between literary texts and the visual arts.


Carl Peterson
Image by Christopher Peterson


As a member of the Oberlin College English department for 39 years, Peterson taught courses on the British novel, conducted workshops in the Creative Writing Program, and led seminars on “text and image” through collaboration with _Allen Memorial Art Museum. Peterson also participated in the Oberlin-in-London program by teaching theater literature and performance. He published papers on 18th-century poetry, literary illustration, architecture, Victorian poetry, and Pre-Raphaelite art. He chaired the English department for seven academic years between 1981 and 1995 before retiring in 1996.

In 1956, he married _Thalia Gouma-Peterson, a Fulbright graduate student and native of Athens, Greece.  Her career focused on ancient and Byzantine art as well as contemporary women artists. Throughout their 44 years together (she died in 2001) the couple traveled extensively in Europe pursuing mutually shared interests in historical sites and museums.

For the last 12 years of his life, Peterson was a resident and active member of the Kendal at Oberlin community. There he participated in many organizations, most notably the Website Committee on which he served as chair, and the Play Readers Group as both a director and performer.

He is survived by sons Gregory of Waban, MA, his wife Gillian Payne, their three children Alex, Julia, and Aiden, and Christopher of South Orange, NJ, his wife Tiffany, and their son Elliott.  Other surviving family members include his sister Dorothy Sarver, nephews Jim and William Peterson, and nieces Mary Amtmann, Meg Spernoga, and Anne Kuhn.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to the Kendal at Oberlin Staff Vacation Fund.

A memorial celebration of Carl Peterson’s life will be held on Sunday, May 28, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. in the Kendal at Oberlin Main Auditorium.

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