Ihab Hassan

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Obituary

1925 - 2015
IHAB HASSAN, "The Father of Postmodernism" dies at 89 in Milwaukee, WI.

Born in Cairo, Egypt, Ihab Hassan followed the path that many bright young Egyptians took in the first half of this century: he came to the United States and trained to become an engineer and in 1948 he earned his MS in that field at the University of Pennsylvania. Yet he continued on at Penn, changing his field to something that spoke to him more deeply than did engineering. He studied literature, and earned two degrees in English--an MA in 1950 and a PhD in 1953.

After a brief period teaching at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Hassan moved to Wesleyan University, where he taught from 1954-1970. Since 1970, he has been the Vilas Research Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee till his retirement in 1999. He wrote 15 books and more than 300 articles on literature and culture.

In the mid- to late 1960s, a dramatic shift occurred in the way people began talking and writing about literature, but there really was no name for it. Ihab Hassan named it postmodernism - a change from modernist writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway to literature characterized by different narrative techniques used by Thomas Pynchon and Toni Morrison - and the term stuck.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee English professor published a paper in 1971 that outlined the development of modernism and postmodernism literature with a now-famous chart. "It was a map that people used when grappling with how to categorize modernism and postmodernism. It's still useful. I taught it in my undergraduate theory survey," said Jason Puskar, associate professor of English at UWM.

He "is arguably the most famous professor in the history of UWM," said Dave Clark, associate dean of humanities. "Now this is coming from the humanities dean, of course. But he's an incredibly well-known international figure, widely credited with coining the current contemporary use of the term postmodernism."

Donations in ongoing support of the work of Ihab Hassan may be made through www.IhabHassanTrust.org or mailed to: P.O. Box 242236, Milwaukee, WI 53224
Published on NYTimes.com from Oct. 12 to Oct. 13, 2015
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