Barbara L. Packer, 63, a retired UCLA English professor who specialized in 19th century American literature and was recognized as an authority on Ralph Waldo Emerson, died Dec. 16 at her Los Angeles 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."
the New York Times, 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 Margaret Fuller, 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 Visalia and her mother was a schoolteacher. After graduating from Stanford University in 1968, Packer went to Yale University, where she studied under Harold Bloom. 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.
— Los Angeles Times staff reports