Robert Folkenflik, UCI professor emeritus of English and literary scholar, dies at 80
Remembering Robert Folkenflik and his 44 years at UCI
Robert Folkenflik, Erik A. Dickson Emeritus Professor of English at UCI, passed away on July 20 at the age of 80.
Folkenflik had made his home in Laguna Beach since 1975. He lived there in the same house since moving to California with his wife, Vivian Folkenflik, who also taught on the UCI humanities faculty for decades. Robert was a mainstay of Woods Cove, one of Laguna’s hidden gems, swimming daily seven or eight months of the year until his late 70s. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, known for his even keel, insight, wit, and character.
Folkenflik joined UCI in 1975 as an English professor after a stint at the University of Rochester. He was an authority on biography, autobiography and memoir, with a specialty in 18th-century British narrative. His scholarship focused on Samuel Johnson, Laurence Sterne, Jonathan Swift and Tobias Smollett and explored the interplay of literary and artistic themes. He won undergraduate teaching awards, aided new doctorates in launching their careers and mentored junior colleagues.
“Bob was very committed to the professional success and well-being of our graduate students,” said Julia Lupton, UCI professor of English and co-director of the UCI Shakespeare Center. “He tirelessly networked on behalf of students applying for jobs, regardless of their fields. Bob was an expert on autobiography, including portraits and self-portraits, which he tracked down in every museum he visited. He also contributed a great deal to the formation and success of the Center for Early Cultures and the UCI Shakespeare Center. He loved this campus and everything it represents.”
Recognized for his expertise across the globe, Folkenflik held fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and the British Academy and visiting positions at the University of London, the University of Konstanz, and the University of Barcelona.
He was born in Newark, N.J., in 1939, the son of the attorney Bernard Folkenflik and the makeup sales specialist Florence Rogosin Folkenflik.
Folkenflik earned his Ph.D. at Cornell after receiving degrees from Rutgers and the University of Minnesota.
Folkenflik was predeceased by his daughter Nora Elizabeth Folkenflik. In addition to Vivian, Folkenflik is survived by his son David Folkenflik; his daughter-in-law Jesse Baker Folkenflik, and his granddaughters Viola Nora Folkenflik, Zella Gray Folkenflik, and Eliza Lynn Folkenflik. He is also survived by his brother Max Folkenflik and his sister Bette Folkenflik Blank.
With his unflagging wit, in lieu of flowers he expressed his wish for more consistent pitching from the Angels.