Murray Krieger, UCI Literature Professor


Murray Krieger, a prominent UC Irvine literature professor, died Saturday. He was 76.

Krieger is remembered by his colleagues and friends as an intellectual leader who helped establish the UC Humanities Research Institute at UC Irvine and developed the school’s critical theory program.

“He really helped put UC Irvine on the academic map,” said Karen Lawrence, dean of the School of Humanities. “He was an ambitious thinker about new projects and new directions for literary criticism and literary theory.”


Krieger joined UC Irvine’s department of English and comparative literature in 1966 and founded the school’s Program in Critical Theory, now the Critical Theory Institute, which examines the theoretical underpinnings of such fields as history, literature, philosophy, art and politics. He is one of only 19 professors in the UC system--and the only one from UC Irvine--to be named a University Professor, the highest rank for a faculty member.

During his career, Krieger wrote 13 books and edited four while also making numerous contributions to scholarly journals. Despite retiring in the early 1990s, Krieger continued to be active on campus and in intellectual life, participating in lectures and symposiums and submitting work for publication.

He won numerous awards, including the UCI Medal, the university’s highest honor, and was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Last April, UC Irvine’s School of Humanities dedicated Murray Krieger Hall, formerly known as the Humanities Office Building, in recognition of his contributions to the school.

And in July, a book of essays exploring Krieger’s influence on literary studies was published by editor Michael Clark, a former student of Krieger’s who is an associate executive vice chancellor at UC Irvine.

“It’s a collection of essays written by some of the leading theorists around the country in Murray’s honor,” Clark said. Krieger “liked the essays, but he also liked the fact that such a distinguished group of contributors was willing to write essays in his honor.”

Krieger’s work focused on the nature of literary fiction and how it reveals the constructed nature of all forms of representation, Clark said. For Krieger, literature was the “primary means of freeing ourselves from the constraints of ideology and arbitrary beliefs.”

Krieger was born Nov. 27, 1923, in Newark, N.J. He served with the U.S. Army in World War II before studying literature at the University of Chicago. He completed his doctorate at Ohio State University and taught at the universities of Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa before taking a position at UC Irvine.

He is survived by his wife, Joan; two children, Catherine and Eliot; and two grandchildren, Adam and Seth.

A private service will be held Sunday. Contributions may be made in his memory to the university’s Murray Krieger Fund. Checks should be made out to the UCI Foundation and sent to Christopher Johnston, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, 92697-3375.