Beer, Gillian (Patricia Kempster) 1935-
BEER, Gillian (Patricia Kempster) 1935-
PERSONAL: Born January 27, 1935, in Bookham, Surrey, England; daughter of Ruth Bell (a teacher); married John Beer (a university teacher), July 7, 1962; children: Daniel, Rufus, Zachary. Education: St. Anne's College, Oxford, B.A., 1957, B.Litt., 1959. Politics: Labour. Hobbies and other interests: Singing, traveling, solitude, conversation, friends, laziness.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Girton College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0JG, England. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Educator and author. Bedford College, London, London, England, assistant lecturer in English literature, 1959-62; Liverpool University, Liverpool, England, lecturer, 1962-64; University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, assistant lecturer, 1966-71, lecturer, 1971-89, professor of English, beginning 1989, currently King Edward VII Professor of English Literature, vice-mistress at Girton College, president of Clare Hall College, 1996-2001. Booker Prize, judge, 1993, chair, 1997.
AWARDS, HONORS: Rose Mary Crawshay Prize, British Academy, 1984, for Darwin's Plots; named Dame of the British Empire, 1998; honorary fellow, St Anne's College and Girton College; honorary degrees from Liverpool University, Leicester University, Cardiff University, Anglia Polytechnic University, and the Sorbonne; medals from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, St Andrew's University, and National Autonomous University, Mexico City.
Meredith: A Change of Masks, Athlone Press, 1970.
The Romance (nonfiction), Methuen (London, England), 1970.
(Editor, with husband, John Beer) Delights and Warnings: A New Anthology of Poems, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, Macdonald (London, England), 1979.
Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin,George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Routledge & Kegan Paul (London, England), 1983, 2nd edition, 2000.
Meredith's Unpublished Notebooks, [Salzburg, Austria], 1984.
George Eliot, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1986.
Arguing with the Past: Essays in Narrative from Woolf to Sidney, Routledge (London, England), 1989.
Impact of Changes in the Personal Income Tax andFamily Payment Systems on Australian Families, 1964 to 1994, University of Canberra (Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia), 1995.
Modern Love, Syrens (New York, NY), 1995.
Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.
(Editor) Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.
(Editor and author of introduction and notes) Jane Austen, Persuasion, Penguin (New York, NY), 1998.
(Editor) Sigmund Freud, The Wolfman and Other Case-Histories, Penguin (New York, NY), 2002.
Also editor, with John Beer, of Heroes and Victims: Poems, Magic and Mystery: Poems; Taking a CloserLook: Poems; and Telling a Story: Poems; all 1979. Contributor of essays to collections on narrative.
SIDELIGHTS: Gillian Beer possesses, according to George Levine in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology, "an unmistakable critical voice, a voice that speaks with authority and grace across a broad range of intellectual disciplines."
The publication of Meredith: A Change of Masks marked the beginning of Beer's fruitful publishing career. In this work she examines nineteenth-century British novelist and poet George Meredith with a psychological focus. However, "it is on the progression of Meredith as an artist that Mrs. Beer is especially outstanding," commented Patrick Cosgrave in the Spectator. The reviewer continued, "At her best (and that is for most of the book) she writes with a calm and prescient lucidity that clarifies the material without losing hold of the many difficulties, obscurities, and uncertainties that Meredith presents to his reader."
In Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Beer treats the theoretical works of British scientist and author Charles Darwin as literature, analyzing Darwin's word choice and style and exploring the ways in which novelists George Eliot and Thomas Hardy used Darwin's ideas in their fiction. New York Review of Books contributor David Joravsky predicted that the work's "cloudy" presentation would "put off all but a handful of fellow specialists." However, John Durant, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, found Beer's prose "mostly clear and well controlled," and called Darwin's Plots "an admirable contribution to our understanding of the place of Darwinism in Victorian culture."
Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter is a collection of essays on Victorian science and literature. Beer covers such topics as the use of allusion in scientific writing, the theories of solar physics popular in Victorian times, and how European scientists viewed themselves and peoples of other cultures. In his review of the collection, Levine praised Beer for "the precision, scholarly authority, and brilliance of her engagement with words, texts, history, and ideas." Stuart Peterfreund in Criticism found Beer's writing to be "both graceful and economical." "Her book is real scholarship," Colin Tudge maintained in the New Statesman. Regenia Gagnier, writing in Victorian Studies, called Beer "one of the most eloquent and learned Victorianists currently writing. . . . This is not the voice of your typical literary critic."
Beer's Virginia Woolf: The Common Ground traces the English novelist's upbringing, particularly the influence of her father and his extensive library, as a powerful factor in determining her literary career. Her father, Leslie Stephen, was the editor of the Dictionary of National Biography and he raised his daughter in an intellectual household where leading literary figures were often family guests. "There is an exquisite clarity to Gillian Beer's writing," Ulysses D'Aquila claimed in the Lambda Book Report, "something truly classic that owes nothing to the jargon and theory-ridden works pouring from American academies."
Beer once told CA: "I have written more since I have had children, and I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of combining family life with a full-time job. Research and the exchange of ideas make professional travel very important to me, particularly as I maintain interests in the history of science and in literature."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
British Journal for the History of Science, March, 1998, Christopher Lawrence, review of Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter, p. 88.
Criticism, summer, 1997, Stuart Peterfreund, review of Open Fields, p. 433.
Georgia Review, fall, 1991, R. B. Kershner, review of Arguing with the Past: Essays in Narrative from Woolf to Sidney, p. 589.
Isis, September, 1997, Barbara T. Gates, review of Open Fields, p. 518.
Journal of English and Germanic Philology, July, 1998, George Levine, review of Open Fields, p. 455.
Lambda Book Report, February, 1998, Ulysses D'Aquila, review of Virginia Woolf: The Common Ground, p. 10.
New Statesman, January 20, 1984, Barbara Hardy, review of Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction, p. 27; January 24, 1997, Colin Tudge, review of Open Fields, p. 46.
New York Review of Books, October 25, 1984, David Joravsky, review of Darwin's Plots, p. 43.
Publishers Weekly, May 16, 1986, John Mutter, review of George Eliot, p. 75.
Review of English Studies, November, 1987, Gail Cunningham, review of George Eliot, p. 579.
Spectator, July 3, 1971, Patrick Cosgrave, review of Meredith: A Change of Masks.
Times (London, England), December 29, 1983.
Times Literary Supplement, December 18, 1970; August 31, 1984, John Durant, review of Darwin's Plots; January 19, 1990, John Bayley, review of Arguing with the Past, p. 67.
Victorian Studies, autumn, 1997, Regenia Gagnier, review of Open Fields, p. 120.
World, December, 1989, Joy Godfrey, review of Arguing with the Past, p. 88.
Contemporary Writers,http://www.contemporary writers.com/ (November 6, 2003).
Orange Prize 2002 Web site,http://184.108.40.206/2002prize/judges/beer.html/ (March 19, 2003), Lisa Gee, interview with Gillian Beer.
Thomas Hardy Association Web site,http://www.yale.edu/hardysoc/ (March 19, 2003).*