University of Rochester

Professor Emeritus of English Frank Shuffelton Dies at 69

March 9, 2010

Frank Shuffelton, a University of Rochester professor and distinguished scholar and critic of American literature, died March 4 of complications from a long illness. He was 69.

Professor emeritus of English and former chair of the Department of English, he spent almost four decades studying and teaching American literature, producing original and important work on Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Hooker, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American transcendentalists, and many others. After his retirement in 2007, Professor Shuffelton continued to pursue new research interests in 18th-century book culture as well as new perspectives on President Thomas Jefferson.

"Friends and colleagues here and, indeed, across the nation and around the world, will miss him sorely," said John Michael, professor and chair of the English department at the University of Rochester. "Several generations of scholars of Early American literature recognize a personal and professional debt to Frank, whose cheerful and encouraging presence at conferences and whose willingness to encourage and assist younger scholars remains something of a legend in the field."

"Frank was an extraordinarily erudite scholar and an unusually original thinker," added Thomas DiPiero, Senior Associate Dean of Humanities. But more important, he was an absolutely terrific colleague and a great friend to a tremendous number of people, both here at Rochester and at institutions across the country."

Professor Shuffelton joined the English Department at the University of Rochester in 1969, having completed his bachelor's degree at Harvard College and his doctorate at Stanford University. He spent the whole of his career as a scholar and critic of American literature at the University of Rochester with particular interests in the literature of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. During his tenure at the University, he taught courses in American literature, early American literature, and ethnicity and American literature. After his first book, Thomas Hooker, 1586-1647 was published in 1977, his attention began to focus on the American Enlightenment and Jefferson.

His interest in the legacy of the Enlightenment in America led Professor Shuffelton to write dozens of influential articles on the life and thought of Jefferson in which he explored the president's engagements with science, religion, and philosophy. Professor Shuffelton also authored two books on Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson: A Comprehensive, Annotated Bibliography, which is considered one of the great resources in the growing field of Jefferson studies, and Thomas Jefferson, 1981-1990: An Annotated Bibliography. He also edited and later reissued the Penguin Classics edition of Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), the only book ever published by Jefferson. He edited a Penguin edition of the Letters of John and Abigail Adams and, most recently, The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Jefferson.

In addition to teaching, Professor Shuffelton held several leadership positions at the University, including being chair of the English department from 2003 to 2007, director of College Writing from 1997 to 2000, and acting department chair from 1996 to 1997. He was a Mellon Faculty Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellow, and served as president of the Northeast American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. He also served on the editorial boards of Early American Literature and Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture and on the executive board of the Modern Language Association's Division on American Literature to 1800. He was honored by the MLA with an award as Distinguished Scholar of Early American Literature in 2006.

Professor Shuffelton, who lived in Brighton, is survived by Jane W. Shuffelton, his wife of 46 years; his brother David; children Amy and George; and grandchildren Philomena and Margaret Shuffelton-Sobe, James, Hal and Hazel Shuffelton. Calling hours will be held at the Anthony Funeral Chapel on Thursday, March 11, from 4-7 p.m., and a memorial service will be held in the Chapel of Third Presbyterian Church at 11a.m. on Friday, March 12. The University flag will be flown at half-staff in his honor on Friday, March 12.