Elaine B. Safer PhD

September 18, 1937 ~ September 9, 2021 (age 83)


Professor Elaine B. Safer passed away on Thursday, Sept 9, due to complications of longstanding diabetes. Her zest for life will be greatly missed by her family, friends, colleagues, and the many students she taught over her forty-four years of teaching in the English Department at the University of Delaware.

Elaine was born in Brooklyn, NY, to Israel (a social worker) and Sally (Bernstein) Berkman. She graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, obtained her B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1958, her M.S. from the University of Wisconsin in 1959, and both an M.A. (1961) and Ph.D. (1967) from Case Western University. She joined the University of Delaware faculty in the English Department in 1967, becoming a Full Professor in 1988. She received many honors, including being selected as a Fulbright Scholar in France. Her most meaningful award was being selected for a University of Delaware Excellence-in-Teaching Award. While initially a Miltonist (co-editing John Milton: L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, with Thomas Erskine), she later specialized in American Literature, especially American Jewish humor, with a focus on authors like Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. Her two later works were The Contemporary American Comic Epic: The Novels of Barth, Pynchon, Gaddis, and Kesey, and Mocking the Age: The Later Novels of Philip Roth. She married Daniel Safer (a physician) in 1960 (divorcing in 1994) and was a loving and involved mother to her three children: Debra, Alan, and Judith. In later years, she formed a loving partnership with Enrique Lerdau (economist for World Bank). Elaine adored her friends, whom she met through the University of Delaware, her involvement with Temple Beth-El, and her love of theater and opera. She formed close connections with her students, with whom she continued to keep in touch. Her love of teaching inspired her son, Alan, to become a University Professor as well. After retiring, Elaine continued to teach as long as she could. For example, she taught Milton as well as the comic epic at the Fromm Institute of Lifelong Learning and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Cal State East Bay. One of the advantages of being in California was closer proximity to her children, brother Howard and sister-in-law Marlene, and beloved granddaughter Zoe. 

Elaine is survived by: eldest daughter Debra Safer (Adam) and granddaughter Zoe Safer Arkin; son Alan Safer, youngest daughter Judy Safer;  brother Howard Berkman (Marlene);  niece Jennifer Sandeman (Josh) and grandnephews Caleb, Luca; and nephew David Berkman (Emilee) and grandniece Lucy. She is also survived by her ex-husband Dan Safer and their shared nephews: Josh Safer (Orna), grandniece Amalia,  grandnephews Jordan and Jonathan; Adam Safer (Diane),  grandnieces Shara, Eliana, and Leora; and Jonah Safer (Meredith) with grandnephew Bram.  Elaine will be missed and her memory cherished. 

Friends and family are invited to donate to the University of Delaware, using a special link in memory of Elaine B. Safer.  (link…… to be added)

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