Richard Stang, professor emeritus of English, 86

Richard Stang, PhD, professor emeritus of English in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, died Dec. 14, 2011, of pancreatic cancer. He was 86.

Stang specialized in 19th-century English literature, particularly the Victorian period.


He first came to WUSTL in February 1961 as a visiting lecturer of English. He was hired that same July as an associate professor of English. Stang was named full professor in 1964 and became professor emeritus in 1997.

“Professor Stang was an intense and devoted teacher, a deep student of the novel and as widely read in European fiction as in English and American literature,” says Steven N. Zwicker, PhD, the Stanley Elkin Professor in the Humanities and professor of English.

“And beyond literature, Professor Stang was deeply responsive to music, especially of the European 19th century — the world from which the literature that he most cherished came.”

Stang was featured in a 1996 issue of Washington Magazine as a faculty member who changed the lives of his students.

“Dick Stang is, quite simply, the finest teacher I’ve ever known,” Ken Lauter, a former doctoral student in the English department, told the magazine in 1996. “Dick’s sheer intensity of engagement is a beautiful and sometimes awesome thing to behold. His classrooms were often so rich and vibrant it seemed that Dick was the medium in a séance: Great writers were in the room with us — speaking through him.”

Stang’s publications include The Theory of the Novel in England 1850-1870 (1959) and Discussions of George Eliot (1960). He also co-edited Critical Essays of Ford Madox Ford (2002).

Before coming to WUSTL, Stang was an assistant professor at Carlton College from 1958-1961, a lecturer at the City College of New York from 1954-58 and an instructor at the University of Washington from 1953-54.

Stang earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology in 1948 from Columbia University. He went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in English literature from Columbia University in 1949 and 1958, respectively. While at Columbia, he studied under eminent literary critic Lionel Trilling, PhD, whose other students included Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and John Hollander.

Stang, a longtime resident of University City, Mo., was born July 3, 1925, and grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943-46.

A service was held Dec. 18 in New York.

Stang is survived by his wife, Susan Hacker Stang; daughter, Elizabeth Anton of Chapel Hill, N.C.; two sons, David Stang of Clinton, N.Y., and Sam Stang of Augusta, Mo.; and three grandchildren.