RAFFEL- Burton Nathan
LAFAYETTE - Burton Raffel died Tuesday, September 29. He was a loving husband of Elizabeth, father to Brian, Blake (deceased), Kezia, Shifra, Nathan and Wendy and grandfather of seven including six grandsons residing in Jerusalem, Israel: Yitzchak, Aryeh, Reuven, Yehuda, Yosef Chaim and Shloimie Pride. His only granddaughter, Samiah Rose Elaham Raffel, resides here in Lafayette.
In 1989, he came to the University of Louisiana Lafayette as Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities. He was a passionate, committed and charismatic teacher who cared deeply about his students and pushed them hard to learn. He retired with regret in 2003. He dearly loved communicating knowledge.
Raffel led an extraordinary life guided by his heart and the courage to take risks most only dream of taking. He was educated at Brooklyn College (B.A., 1948), Ohio State University (M.A., 1949), and Yale Law School (J.D., 1958). An accomplished translator from many languages, he was also a poet and writer, publishing more than 100 books with publishers including Penguin, Random House, Yale University Press, Norton and Northwestern University Press in Evanston, Illinois. He is best known for his translation of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, widely anthologized and one of the most widely used translations in the country. Over the years he received letters of gratitude from students all over the country whose lives were touched and changed by reading this book.
He spent 1953-55 in Indonesia working for the Ford foundation teaching English to teachers of English. This period of his life left a deep and much treasured impression on him. He returned to attend Yale Law School, another life-changing experience. From there he went to a major Wall Street firm, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy where he practiced law for two years before deciding it was not for him. He was founding editor of Foundation News before returning to academia at State University of New York Stoneybrook in 1965.
He was the first full professor at Haifa University in Israel, then taught at the University of Texas Austin, York University in Toronto, Ontario and the University of Denver before finally coming to the University of Louisiana Lafayette.
Of his many translations, he was most proud of his final work, Dante's Divine Comedy, published by Northwestern University Press in Illinois. He spent a lifetime contemplating how to best capture in English the power and beauty of Dante's incomparable terza rima.
He was also very proud of his 1991 translation of Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, for which he won the 1991 French-American Foundation Translation Award. In 1996 he translated Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, which has been acclaimed for making Cervantes more accessible to the modern generation. Raffel worked with Yale Press and Harold Bloom on a series of 14 annotated Shakespeare plays. In 2008, Random House's Modern Library published his new translation of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Burial at the Jewish Cemetery will be private.
In lieu of flowers the family requests that friends and students contact Dr Jordan Kellman, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts for information on making a donation to a ULL scholarship in Burton Raffel's Name.
View the obituary and guestbook online at www.mourning.com
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