KU Press Release: University mourns death of professor emeritus of English

A longtime University of Kansas professor of English has died. Professor Emeritus Melvin Landsberg, a scholar of the works of writer John Dos Passos, died March 5 in Lawrence. He was 89.

“I join the University of Kansas community in mourning the death of Melvin Landsberg and recalling his 48 years of teaching, research and service in KU’s Department of English,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “On behalf of the KU community, I extend my condolences to Professor Landsberg’s family, friends, colleagues and former students.”

During his long career, Landsberg published “Dos Passos’ Path to USA: A Political Biography, 1912-1936,” a book about the 20th century writer.

Dorice Williams Elliott, former chair of the English department, called Landsberg perhaps the world’s leading expert on Dos Passos. She said his work on the writer was a passion that absorbed him through most of his career.

“Melvin was always available for an intelligent and lively conversation,” Elliott said. “He was an excellent teacher who often touched the hearts of his students, besides filling them with fascinating information about 20th century American literature.”

Landsberg remained a passionate reader and literary critic, as well as an engaging conversationalist, to the very end, said fellow American literature scholar Laura Mielke, associate chair of the English department.

“He firmly believed that the acts of reading, writing and talking about books mattered,” Mielke said.

Services were March 9 in Lawrence and Eudora.