teacher scholar, editor, and dedicated Janeite, Gene Koppel made major contributions to both JASNA and to the profession. Professor Koppel spent thirty-five years, until his retirement in 1997, at the University of Arizona. He died on April 10, 2011.
In addition to his work on Jane Austen, Gene Koppel was the author of articles on Tom Jones, A Sentimental Journey, and the work of Anne Tyler. He also published interviews with Isaac Bashevis Singer and Elie Wiesel: with Paul Rosenblatt, A Certain Bridge: Isaac Bashevis Singer on Literature and Life (1971, rpt. 1979) and with Henry Kauffmann, Elie Wiesel: A Small Measure of Victory (1974).
But it’s about his keen interest in and affection for Jane Austen that we most think and speak. Gene Koppel was central to the conversation about Jane Austen on this side of the Atlantic. He was part of the initial band in New York in October 1979 attending the first meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America. He was a member of JASNA’s Board, of its Publications Committee, and of its Literary Competition Committee for a number of years before he served, with co-editors Lorraine Hanaway and the late Joan Austen-Leigh, as editor of Persuasions from 1987 until 1997.
As an Austen scholar, Gene Koppel is most known for The Religious Dimension of Jane Austen’s Novels (1988). As Julia Prewitt Brown, Professor of English at Boston University and member of the Editorial Board of Persuasions, writes:
In the 1992 edition of David Jeffrey’s Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, there is a bibliography of sources on major authors’ use of the Bible. Under Jane Austen only one book is cited: Gene Koppel’s The Religious Dimension of Jane Austen’s Novels. For a long time, Gene’s book was the only serious study of Austen’s Anglicanism. It’s an important subject, and Gene’s book is wonderfully intelligent. I always want my graduate students to read it, so that they know there is more than one way to skin a cat. Gene was a true scholar.