Skip to main content

Hampl, Patricia 1946–

Hampl, Patricia 1946–


Born March 12, 1946, in St. Paul, MN; daughter of Stanley R. (a florist) and Mary (a librarian) Hampl. Education: University of Minnesota, B.A., 1968; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 1970.


Home—St. Paul, MN. Office—Department of English, University of Minnesota, 207 Lind Hall, Minneapolis, MN 55455. Agent—Rhoda Weyr, 151 Bergen St., Brooklyn, NY 11217. E-mail—[email protected]


Educator and poet. Formerly worked as a sales clerk and telephone operator; KSJN-Radio, St. Paul, MN, editor of Minnesota Monthly, 1973-75; freelance editor and writer, 1975-79; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, visiting assistant professor, 1979-84, associate professor, 1984-89, professor of English, 1989-96, McKnight Distinguished Professor, 1996-97, Regents' Professor, 1997—. Founding member of The Loft Literary Center.


Bellagio fellowship (Italy); Guggenheim Foundation fellowship; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1976, one other; Bush Foundation fellowship, 1979, one other; Houghton Mifflin literary fellowship, 1981, for A Romantic Education; named Distinguished Teacher of the Year, University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, 1985; Ingram-Merrill fellowship, 1986; MacArthur fellowship, 1990-95; Fulbright fellowship, 1995; McKnight Distinguished University Professorship, 1996; Pushcart Prize, 1999, for short story "The Bill Collector's Vacation"; Minnesota Book Award, 2000, for "The Summer House"; Distinguished Achievement Award, Western Literature Association, 2001; Notable Book of the Year designation, New York Times Book Review, for Virgin Time, and Spillville.


Woman before an Aquarium (poetry), University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1978.

A Romantic Education (memoir), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1981, 10th anniversary edition, Norton (New York, NY), 1999.

Resort: A Poem, Bookslinger Editions (St. Paul, MN), 1982, revised edition edited by Gerald Costanzo, Carnegie Mellon University Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 2001.

In a Winter Garden, music by Libby Larsen, E.C. Schirmer (Boston, MA), 1982.

Resort and Other Poems, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1983.

Steven Sorman (essay), Dolan/Maxwell Gallery (Philadelphia, PA), 1986.

(With Steven Sorman) Spillville, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 1987.

Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life (memoir), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1992.

(Editor) Burning Bright: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1995.

I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory, Norton (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Michael Dennis Browne) 2 for 5 (chapbook), Minnesota Center for Book Arts, 1999.

(Editor, with Dave Page) F. Scott Fitzgerald, The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Borealis Books (St. Paul, MN), 2004.

Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

The Florist's Daughter: A Memoir, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Best American Short Stories 1977, edited by Martha Foley, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1977; Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song, edited by Jim Perlman, Ed Folsom, and Dan Campion, Holy Cow! (Minneapolis, MN), 1981; and Best American Essays 1999. Contributor to periodicals, including American Poetry Review, New Yorker, Paris Review, and Iowa Review. Co-editor of Lamp in the Spine, 1971-74. Contributing editor, Houghton Mifflin Anthology of Short Fiction, Houghton Mifflin, 1989.


Patricia Hampl is best known for her memoirs A Romantic Education and Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life. In these books, she reflects on her Roman Catholic upbringing and her adult travels to numerous sites of Catholic history and practice. A Romantic Education, in which Hampl relates her journey to Prague to explore her Czech heritage, is generally considered a classic of the memoir genre. Besides being a uniquely personal story, it was also hailed by many commentators as a brilliant portrait of life in Communist Europe in the days of the Iron Curtain.

This dual nature of many memoirs is part of the genre's appeal, according to Hampl. In a Touchstone interview she stated: "We like the personal essay not just because it tells us about a person's life, but because it allows an individual, the poor, unarmed, unguarded, individual self an opportunity to investigate something much larger." In addition, Hampl concluded: "What we're interested in is not just the story but the ability of that self to contend with something that's bigger, more difficult, and in some ways maybe requiring expert information to understand."

In Virgin Time Hampl gives an account of her pilgrimage to Assisi—home of Saints Francis and Clare—and to a Franciscan monastery in northern California. She recalls the richness of her early Catholic education, her eventual disillusionment with Roman Catholicism, and her midlife re-examination of it. "Hampl writes with real insight about the intimacies of faith, and at the same time employs language beautifully," wrote Mary Ann Donovan in America.

The author blended her own memories with a study of the memoir form in the essay collection I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory. It is an "erudite narrative about her life of the mind," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who continued: "The passions, concerns and ethical wranglings of this reader, reviewer, poet, historian, family scribe and theorist … converge here as flashes of memoir…. Hampl's writing displays many of the tantalizing elements that have distinguished her previous work." Booklist critic Donna Seaman termed I Could Tell You Stories a "remarkable volume of essays…. Lucid and questing, Hampl ponders the spirituality inherent in the work of poets and memoirists, impassioned witnesses to the inner life."

Hampl is also a poet, and in both her prose and poetry she exhibits an elegiac tone and temper. Reviewing A Romantic Education in the New York Times Book Review, Paul Zweig detected in the book's mixture of personal and cultural history a "mourning" on Hampl's behalf for what he called "the ‘greened’ America of her adolescence: the failed communes, the moral fervor of the anti-war movement." While he took exception to Hampl's repetitiveness and "penchant for orotund generality," Zweig described her prose as "strong, at times even brilliant" and praised in particular Hampl's fusion of reality and fantasy. "At its best," he said, A Romantic Education "is a quarry of richly imaged lines."

Alfred Corn, also writing in the New York Times Book Review, offered a similar commendation for Resort, Hampl's second volume of poetry. Concerned with what occurs when a love has come to an end, the first half of these poems are, in Corn's words, "a solemn notation of visual particulars and elusive emotions." Corn went on to praise Hampl not only for her "rapturous" descriptions and humor, but especially for her skillful use of metaphor in the unfolding of her somewhat wistful themes.

Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime serves as something of a continuation of the memoir Hampl left off with in Virgin Time. As part of her ongoing search for the more sublime experiences in life, Hampl paid a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, where she was enamored by the works of Matisse. Her examination of Matisse's works, particularly those containing women in exotic or erotic poses, extends to a study of Delacroix, and then beyond painting to the works of other great masters in their fields, such as writers Katherine Mansfield and F. Scott Fitzgerald, filmmaker Jerome Hill, and teacher Doris Derman. She looks not only at their work, but also at the lives they led and how life and craft intertwined and nourished each other, even in those artists with self-destructive or depressive tendencies. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote: "Hampl proves to be an authoritative and beguiling guide to the joys of leisure and the intellect." Donna Seaman, in a review for Booklist, remarked that "Hampl does with words what Matisse does with line and color, that is, reaches to the essence of perception." The New York Times Book Review declared Blue Arabesque one of the one hundred notable books of the year.

Hampl herself is conscious of her preoccupation with the past. As she once told CA: "I suppose I write about all the things I intended to leave behind, to grow out of, or deny: being a Midwesterner, a Catholic, a woman."



Hampl, Patricia, Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1992.

Hampl, Patricia, A Romantic Education, 10th anniversary edition, Norton (New York, NY), 1999.

Hampl, Patricia, Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

Hampl, Patricia, The Florist's Daughter: A Memoir, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.


America, January 2, 1993, Mary Ann Donovan, review of Virgin Time, p. 18.

Booklist, May 1, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory, p. 1572; September 15, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of Blue Arabesque, p. 16.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2006, review of Blue Arabesque, p. 821.

New York Times Book Review, March 29, 1981, Paul Zweig, review of A Romantic Education; March 11, 1984, Alfred Corn, review of Resort.

Publishers Weekly, May 3, 1999, review of I Could Tell You Stories, p. 57; September 11, 2006, review of Blue Arabesque, p. 44.

Touchstone, Volume 33, 2001, "‘We Were Such a Generation’—Memoir, Truthfulness, and History: An Interview with Patricia Hampl," p. 90.


University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts Web site, (June 22, 2007), "Patricia Hampl."

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Hampl, Patricia 1946–." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . 15 Nov. 2018 <>.

"Hampl, Patricia 1946–." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . (November 15, 2018).

"Hampl, Patricia 1946–." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Retrieved November 15, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.