Barbara L. Packer, 63, a retired
English professor who specialized in 19th century American literature and was recognized as an authority on Ralph Waldo Emerson, died Dec. 16 at her
home, according to the university's English department. She had cancer.
Packer, who wrote extensively on Emerson and the Transcendentalists, received wide praise for her 1982 scholarly work "Emerson's Fall: A New Interpretation of the Major Essays."
Richard Poirier, a noted literary scholar, critic and publisher, in reviewing the book for
, called it "brilliant" and noted that Packer "listens to Emerson and catches his modulations of voice better than anyone ever has."
Packer also was the author of "The Transcendentalists," a 2007 account of the 19th century literary and philosophical movement in New England led by Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and
, among others. It was first published in the "Cambridge History of American Literature" (1994).
Barbara Lee Packer was born June 2, 1947, in Oakdale, Calif. Her father was a citrus rancher in
and her mother was a schoolteacher. After graduating from
in 1968, Packer went to
, where she studied under
. She earned her doctorate at Yale University in 1973 and stayed on for five years as an assistant professor of English.
Packer arrived at UCLA in 1978 and for 30 years taught 19th century American literature as well as Milton and Chaucer. Among her honors was the university's Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award.
She was married to Paul D. Sheats, who also taught English at UCLA.