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Samuel Louis (Sam) Goldberg (1926–1991)

by Jane Dargaville

Samuel L. Goldberg, one of Australia's most influential teachers of English literature, and a critic of genuine originality and international standing, died in Canberra Hospital of a heart ailment on 11 December, a few weeks after his 65th birthday.

Sam Goldberg was educated at Melbourne University and Oxford. He was Challis Professor of English literature at the University of Sydney from 1963 to 1966, and then Wallace Professor of English at the University of Melbourne. He joined the History of Ideas Unit in the Institute of Advanced Studies in 1976 as a Senior Fellow, and transferred to the Institute's Philosophy Department four years ago, wishing to pursue his long standing interest in the relationship between moral questions and the evaluation of literature.

Goldberg published two books on James Joyce—one of which was devoted to the novel Ulysses—and a closely argued study of Shakespeare's King Lear. His forthcoming volume, Agents and Lives (a collection of his essays on the ethical statue of literature), his editorship for twenty five years of the literary annual, The Critical Review, and his role in founding distinctive and important contributions to the intellectual life of Australia.

A number of his several dozen articles on such writers as Marvell, Pope, George Eliot, and D H. Lawrence have been reprinted in English, American, French and German collections. He had been a Visiting Fellow at the Universities of Edinburgh, Bristol and Cambridge, maintaining for many years close connections with colleagues in Cambridge. He was also an active member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and the chairman of the weekend seminar on literature held each year under the auspices of The Critical Review.

Sam was not only an intellectual leader, however, but an unforgettable teacher whose rigorous and provocative reading of literature challenged both his colleagues and generations of Australian students. He thought of himself as first and foremost a teacher, and although he much missed his contact with undergraduates during the last fifteen years, he continued to teach, not only at postgraduate level, but at all levels of intellectual exchange.

Sam Goldberg is survived by his wife, Dr Jane Adamson, a close collaborator in much of his work; and by two adult sons and daughter from a previous marriage.

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Jane Dargaville, 'Goldberg, Samuel Louis (Sam) (1926–1991)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 June 2024.

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