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Phillip Damon, UC Berkeley professor of comparative literature, dies at age 80
07 November 2002

By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations

Berkeley - Phillip Damon, a University of California, Berkeley, professor emeritus of comparative literature who was considered an expert on the influence and heritage of the classics in the medieval period, has died at the age of 80.

Damon, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease for more than a decade, died at his Berkeley home on Oct. 22.

Phillip Damon
Phillip Damon

A native of Fullerton, Calif., Damon attended the Raenford Academy near Encino in the San Fernando Valley. He earned three degrees at UC Berkeley, interrupting his education to serve as an Air Force navigator in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, he returned to Berkeley, earning his Ph.D. in English in 1942 with a dissertation on medieval Latin poetry.

Damon also attended the Universite de Laval in Quebec and the Sorbonne in Paris.

Colleagues described him as quiet, reserved, an insatiable reader of modern and classic literature, and one of the most intelligent people they ever encountered.

"He was both modern and medieval," said Kenneth Weisinger, UC Berkeley professor emeritus of comparative literature and a longtime friend of Damon's. "He was just such a Renaissance person."

During his academic career, Damon taught English, French, comparative literature and classics.

His first teaching position was in English at Cornell University, and his second was at Harpur College of Arts and Science at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y. He also taught Greek and Latin at Ohio State University, and English and classics at UC Santa Barbara, Stanford University and UC Berkeley.

He began teaching at UC Berkeley in 1966 and became chair of the Department of Comparative Literature a year later. Damon remained in Berkeley until 1974, when he left to teach at Stanford for two years before returning to the Berkeley campus. He retired in 1991.

Damon was the author of numerous essays about Dante's use of classical mythology and a variety of essays about classical and medieval subjects. He wrote "Modes of Analogy in Ancient and Medieval Verse" and edited the English Institute volume, "Literary Criticism and Historical Understanding."

Carol Damon said her husband loved city walking and his work.

In addition to his wife, Carol, of Berkeley; Phillip Damon is survived by a daughter, Celia, of Berkeley; a son, Gordon, also of Berkeley; and a brother, William, of New York City.

Damon requested that there be no memorial service.

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