Sad News: Eugene Goodheart

April 14, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I write to share with you the sad news that Eugene Goodheart, Emeritus Professor of English, passed away on April 9, 2020 at the age of 88.  He leaves behind his wife, Joan Bamberger, his children Jessica Goodheart and Eric Goodheart, and two grandchildren.  His family is planning a memorial service for later this year when everyone can safely gather together.

Gene was born in Brooklyn in 1931, the son of immigrants.  He studied at Columbia and the University of Virginia before receiving his Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 1961.   He held faculty positions at Bard College, University Chicago, Mount Holyoke College, MIT, and Boston University, where he served for many years as the chair of the English Department.  He was recruited to Brandeis in 1983 as the Edytha Macy Gross Professor of Humanities with the promise that he would never again have to serve as chair of the English Department!  In reality, as many of you know, he ended up serving most successfully as English Department chair many times throughout his years at Brandeis before his retirement in 2001. 

A student of Lionel Trilling, a close friend of Saul Bellow, Goodheart moved from a first book -- a monograph on D. H. Lawrence -- to wide-ranging essays on nineteenth and twentieth century novels.  He then expanded his range into books of acute observations on academic fashions and national politics.  His numerous essays reflected wide reading and thoughtful ruminations.

Reviewing Goodheart’s memoir, Confessions of a Secular Jew (2001), in Partisan Review, Stephen Whitfield of the Department of American Studies praised the author’s habitual “skepticism” and “his cultivation of intellectual independence.” Goodheart never forgot the hunger for social justice that marked his own coming-of-age.  Of Brandeis, Goodheart remarked in his memoir, “Though I have never felt at home at any institution, Brandeis has come closest to making me feel comfortable.  I have come to enjoy the informality and intellectual seriousness of the institution, its heimishness.”

Gene was honored throughout his career with numerous prestigious awards and fellowships including those from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Fulbright Program.  In 2014, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York bestowed upon Goodheart a degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, citing his “brilliant and provocative contributions to humanist criticism and scholarship.”

At Brandeis, Gene was a supportive mentor for younger faculty, a diligent and selfless colleague who had a strong hand in shaping the English department’s reputation and in laying the groundwork for its future.  He was also a warm and generous friend. I would like to thank Steve Whitfield and John Burt sharing their memories of Gene with the Provost’s Office staff.

Eugene Goodheart was deeply committed to the values and mission of Brandeis, and he will be sorely missed.


Lisa M. Lynch, Provost