As a student at Cornell University, Appel took a course from Nabokov. His education was interrupted by a stint in the Army, after which he completed his undergraduate education and PhD in English Literature at Columbia University.
After teaching at Columbia for a few years, he joined the faculty of Northwestern University, where he taught until his retirement in 2000. He died of heart failure. Appel was married until his death to Nina Appel, dean of Loyola University Chicago's law school from 1983-2004. They had two children, Karen Oshman and television writer and producer Richard Appel.
- "Noted English Scholar, Author Alfred Appel Dies at Age 75". Northwestern University. May 5, 2009. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2009.
- Grimes, William (May 7, 2009). "Alfred Appel Jr., Expert on Nabokov and Author, Dies at 75". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2009.
- Jensen, Trevor (19 May 2009). "Alfred Appel Jr., 1934-2009: Scholar, author, friend of Nabokov". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
- Grimes, William (May 7, 2009). "Alfred Appel Jr., Expert on Nabokov and Author, Dies at 75". The New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
- David L. Ulin (1998-12-06). "In His Prime Time". Chicago Tribune. p. 14.
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