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Harold Kaplan

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Harold Kaplan

1916 - 2015 WILLIAMSTOWN Harold Kaplan, 99, distinguished literary critic and poet, and former member of Bennington College's Literature faculty, died on March 7, 2015 at Sweetwood Retirement Community in Williamstown after a period of declining health. Born in Chicago on Jan. 3, 1916, he was the youngest of seven children of Elia and Ida Kaplan, immigrants from Lithuania. Growing up on Chicago's south side, he was a stellar high school student and won a scholarship to the University of Chicago. He capped his graduation with three years of post-graduate study in English Literature. Harold embarked on his long life of intellectual thought and discourse in New York City, where he spent time in the 1930's among the writers, poets and artists of Greenwich Village. He enlisted in the military in 1942 where he trained pilots in Texas before being tapped to write a history of the Air Force. After being discharged as a Captain in 1946, he landed a position at Rutgers University where he discovered a passion for teaching. A visit to Bennington College led to his joining its Literature Division in 1949, launching a 37 year career teaching literature and creative writing and pursuing research and literary criticism. In 1972 he was appointed to a senior position in the English Department of Northwestern University where he taught until his retirement in 1986, when he and his wife returned to live in Bennington. Here, he continued to write and publish until health issues led to a move to Sweetwood in 2009. His life-long engagement with the humanities especially in the American tradition and with humanist concerns found expression in a series of books, starting with The Passive Voice: An Approach to Modern Fiction (1966); Democratic Humanism and American Literature (1972); Power and Order ("Henry Adams and the Naturalist Tradition in American Fiction" (1981); Conscience and Memory (1994); Poetry, Politics and Culture (2006); a book of his poetry, Redemptive Memory (2009); and a family memoir, A Memoir of Being Human (2013). In 1962, he married Isabelle Ollier from Clermont-Ferrand, France, who survives along with their three children, Anne, Gabriel and Claire Kaplan; and eight grandchildren, Nicholas and Emma Bessire, Samuel, Oliver and Sophie Kaplan, and Phoebe, Lucy and Dylan Kallaher. Memorial donations may be made in Harold's honor to the National Parkinson Foundation (www.parkinson.org).
Published in Bennington Banner on Mar. 8, 2015
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