Auckland University staff and students are mourning the loss of emeritus professor of English Terry Sturm who died yesterday.

Prof Sturm was a member of the faculty of arts for 25 years and was a leading critic and scholar of Australasian writing, especially New Zealand popular fiction. He played a leading role in placing New Zealand literature at the centre of the academic curriculum. In 1990, he was awarded a CBE in recognition of his services to literature.

Prof Sturm was born in Auckland in 1941 and began his distinguished career at Auckland University.

He undertook postgraduate work at Cambridge University and at the University of Leeds. He then lectured in English Literature at the University of Sydney from 1967-1980, when he left to take a professorial chair at Auckland University.

He edited various standard literary reference works including The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (1990, 1998), the drama section of the Oxford History of Australian Literature and the New Zealand section of the Routledge Encyclopaedia of Post-colonial Literatures in English (1994).

Prof Sturm's literary biography An Unsettled Spirit: The Life and Frontier Fiction of Edith Lyttleton ( 2003) was the product of 15 years of research in New Zealand, Australia and England.

Assisted by a Marsden Fund grant, he spent the past recent years researching and writing a definitive literary biography, The Writings of Allen Curnow: a Study of Cultural Identity in New Zealand in the Twentieth Century.

In 2005, he edited a selection of Curnow's verse written under his pseudonym Whim Wham, Whim Wham's New Zealand: The Best of Whim Wham 1937-1988 (2005).

Prof Sturm was involved in literary arts administration for many years. He was on the NZ Literary Fund and the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council (1982-92) and in 1997 became first convenor of the humanities panel of the Marsden Fund.

Prof Sturm made a major contribution to the study of New Zealand and Australian literature and his scholarship was recognised nationally and internationally.

As an academic, he was top of his field; he was also deeply valued as a colleague and friend, the university said today.

He leaves behind his wife Linda and three sons, Jonathan, Mark and Tim and their families.

The funeral will be held in the university's Maclaurin Chapel on Friday.