John Felstiner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
John Felstiner
Casual portrait photograph of male, age appearing to be in 50's (chronologically 70's), with brown eyes, brown eyebrows, white hair and mustache, wearing white t-shirt and khaki shirt.
Felstiner at Stanford University in 2009

John Felstiner (July 5, 1936 – February 24, 2017), Professor Emeritus of English at Stanford University,[1] was an American literary critic, translator, and poet. His interests included poetry in various languages, environmental and ecologic poems, literary translation, Vietnam era poetry and Holocaust studies.[2] John Felstiner died in February 2017 at the age of 80. He had been suffering from the effects of progressive aphasia at his time of death, at a hospice near Stanford.


Felstiner was born in Mount Vernon, New York [3] and grew up in New York and New England. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy,[4] Harvard College, A.B. (magna cum laude), 1958, and Harvard University, Ph.D., 1965.[2]

From 1958 to 1961, he served on the USS Forrestal, in the Mediterranean.[5] Felstiner came to Stanford University in 1965 and was a professor of English at Stanford until his retirement in 2009. Felstiner is also known for writing, non academically but very movingly, of a former student of his, Elizabeth Wiltsee, in the late 60’s at Stanford. Pretty, precocious “Liz” Wiltsee had been a brilliant literature student, who declined into mental illness and homelessness, never fulfilling her great promise. She died around the age of 50, under mysterious circumstances. [5] While at Stanford, Felstiner was three times a fellow at Stanford Humanities Center; a Fulbright professor at University of Chile (1967–68); visiting professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1974–75); and visiting professor of Comparative Literature and English at Yale University (1990, 2002).[2]

His collection of Paul Celan’s manuscripts, letters, and widespread context, along with Felstiner’s own translation archive, are housed at the Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.[6]

John and his wife, the writer, historian and professor Mary Lowenthal Felstiner, have two children: Sarah and Alek, and also two grandchildren.[7]

Selected works[edit]

Selected honors and awards[edit]

  • First Kenyon Review Prize in Criticism, for Max Beerbohm and the Wings of Henry James (1967) [8]
  • National Endowment for the Arts Literature and Translation Fellowships (1969, 1971, 1984, 2002) [9]
  • Rockefeller (1980), Guggenheim (1983), and National Endowment for the Humanities (1971, 1989) fellowships, and Bellagio Center (Rockefeller Foundation) Residency (1996) [2]
  • Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu won the California Commonwealth Club Gold Medal for Non-fiction.[2]
  • Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew won the Truman Capote Prize for Literary Criticism and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award and the Modern Language Association’s James Russell Lowell prize.[2]
  • Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan won translation prizes from the American Translators Association, Modern Language Association, and PEN West.[2]
  • Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2005.[10]


  1. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter F" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 27 June 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "The Human Experience: inside the humanities at Stanford University". Archived from the original on 16 December 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ " Contemporary Authors". Retrieved 27 June 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "The Exeter Bulletin Fall 2009". Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b "Guide to the John Felstiner Papers". Retrieved 27 June 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "Lilly Library Manuscript Collections, Felstiner, John, MSS". Retrieved 27 June 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "V-LETTER: A STORY SURVIVED". Retrieved 17 October 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Felstiner, John (1967). "Kenyon Review". The Kenyon Review. 29 (4): 449–471. JSTOR 4334746.
  9. ^ "National Endowment for the Arts Features Writers' Corner John Felstiner". Archived from the original on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 27 June 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Professor John Felstiner". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 26 April 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

Selected interviews, book reviews, and articles[edit]