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Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer 1931-

LEWALSKI, Barbara Kiefer 1931-

PERSONAL: Born February 22, 1931, in Chicago, IL; daughter of John Peter and Vivo (Hutton) Kiefer; married Kenneth Lewalski, June 23, 1956; children: David John. Education: Kansas State Teachers College (now Emporia Kansas State College), B.S.Ed., 1950; University of Chicago, A.M., 1951, Ph.D., 1956.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of English, Harvard University, Barker Center #215, 12 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, instructor in English literature, 1954-56; Brown University, Providence, RI, began as instructor, 1956, associate professor, 1962-67, professor of English, beginning in 1967, alumni-alumnae university professor of English, beginning in 1976, director of graduate studies in English, 1968-72; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, William R. Kenan Professorship of English Literature and of History and Literature, director of graduate studies, 1997—, ACMRS Distinguished Lecturer in Renaissance Studies, 1999. Lecturer at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University, 1968; visiting professor at Princeton University, 1974.

MEMBER: Milton Society of America (president, 1970), American Association of University Professors (vice president), Modern Language Association of America, Renaissance Society of America, Academy for Literature Studies (president, 1976-77).

AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright scholarship, 1953-54; American Association of University Women fellowship, 1961-62; Guggenheim fellowship, 1967-68; Explicator Prize, 1973; National Endowment for the Humanities senior fellowship, 1974-75; honored scholar of Milton Society of America, 1977; James Russell Lowell Prize, 1980, for Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric; James Holly Hanford Award, 1983, 1985. Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Milton's Brief Epic: The Genre, Meaning, and Art of "Paradise Regained," Brown University Press (Providence, RI), 1966.

(Editor) William Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing, W. C. Brown (Dubuque, IA), 1969.

(Contributor) New Essays on "Paradise Lost," University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1969.

Donne's "Anniversaries" and the Poetry of Praise: The Creation of a Symbolic Mode, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1973.

(Editor, with Andrew J. Sabol) Major Poets of the Earlier Seventeenth Century: Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw, Jonson, Herrick, Marvell, Odyssey (New York, NY), 1973.

Typology and Poetry: A Consideration of Herbert, Vaughan, and Marvell, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1973.

Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric, Princeton University Press (Princeton NJ), 1979.

"Paradise Lost" and the Rhetoric of Literary Forms, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1985.

(Editor) Renaissance Genres: Essays on Theory, History, and Interpretation, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1986.

Writing Women in Jacobean England, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1993.

(Editor) The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Form and Reform in Renaissance England, University of Delaware Press (Newark, DE), 2000.

The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography, Blackwell (Malden, MA), 2001.

Contributor to literature Journals.

SIDELIGHTS: An educator and researcher with specialties in John Milton, seventeenth-century literature, and early modern women's writing, Barbara Kiefer Lewalski has had a long career in academia at both Brown University and Harvard and is the author of numerous critical works. In Writing Women in Jacobean England, she deals with the lives of nine female authors, ranging from royalty to lower social levels: Anne of Denmark, Elizabeth of Bohemia, Arabella Stuart, Lucy Russell, Anne Clifford, Rachel Speght, Elizabeth Cary, Amelia Lanyer, and Mary Worth. With this study of women who were not only in charge of property but of their own identity, Lewalski attempts to show that Renaissance women were not merely "passive constructs of political power," as David Norbrook commented in the New Republic.

As Kathryn Murphy Anderson noted in College Literature, Lewalski's study "provides good surveys of texts by the second discernable wave of English women writers (the first being Tudor)" and is "an important first source for scholars researching and teaching about these women and their writing." Anderson went on to note also that Lewalski "argues, sometimes against earlier readers, that the texts represent their authors' attempts to reinvision a world more shaped by female viewpoints and authority, more conducive to female influence," and that "many of the women's lives and writings … chronicle the pervasive and frequently misogynist influence of James I and the even more pervasive influence of institutionalized patriarchal advantage in curtailing these women's autonomy during their lives." Betty S. Travitsky, writing in the Renaissance Quarterly, thought that "no one … will be disappointed by the heavy guns that Barbara Lewalski has brought to bear on the lives and works of the nine Jacobean women." However, Travitsky also felt that Lewalski's perspective might have included a "broader spectrum," and as a result her survey "produced a solid but somewhat disappointing study." However, Janet Clare, writing in the Review of English Studies, found that "Lewalski's detailed biographical studies allow a composite picture of female literary relations to emerge." Clare was particularly impressed with the account of the polemicist Rachel Speght, "one of the most intriguing figures to emerge from Lewalski's detailed attention to more marginalized genres." More praise came from Margaret P. Hannay, who noted in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology that "Lewalski's careful scholarship is evidenced by her consistent refusal to trust the nineteenth-century summaries and compilations that have formed the basis for much research on women writers." Hannay further commented that reading Lewalski's book "will help us to listen to these long-silenced voices." And Norbrook concluded that Lewalski has "produced a fascinating amount of evidence of interconnections between the women she studies, enough to give her book a genuine unity…. One of the chief merits of Lewalski's book is that its breadth and depth of coverage allow readers to make their own judgments."

Lewalski returns to a subject she has often written about with her 2001 title, The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography. David V. Urban, writing in Christianity and Literature, called the book a "balanced and incisive" work and one that "displays the cumulative work of a scholar who has been producing acclaimed studies on John Milton for some four decades." For Choice's A. C. Labriola, Lewalski's "is the most comprehensive and magisterial biography of Milton since William Riley Parker's [1968] two-volume Milton." Labriola further observed that Lewalski "significantly updates understanding of Milton" by her inclusion of recent scholarly research on this seventeenth-century poet and religious/philosophical/political thinker.

Reviewing the biography in the Times Literary Supplement, Daniel Swift noted that "Lewalski traces a growing political awareness in her admirable close readings of the works." Swift went on to observe that "Milton fashioned himself as a poetic figure in his own autobiographical writings; and Lewalski sets out that public face in wonderful detail." William M. Abbott, writing in Church History, was also favorably impressed with Lewalski's biography, noting that it "offers useful insights to the general reader as well as to specialists." Abbott further commented, "What emerges [in the book] is a 'fiercely individualistic' man who is less contradictory than multifaceted…. Other biographers have shown us much of this complexity, but none, I suggest, so thoroughly as does Lewalski." Urban also highly commended the book: "Lewalski's biography is an extraordinary resource in many ways. In a single volume it offers an insightful narrative of Milton's life, superb critical analysis of his writings, and a broad, up-to-date exposure to various strands of Milton criticism…. This is an excel lent biography, written with great expertise and genuine affection, by one of the foremost Milton scholars of the past century."



Choice, October, 2001, A. C. Labriola, review of The Life of John Milton, p. 310.

Christianity and Literature, spring, 2002, David V. Urban, review of The Life of John Milton, pp. 489-492.

Church History, March, 2003, William M. Abbott, review of The Life of John Milton, pp. 206-207.

College Literature, February, 1996, Kathryn Murphy Anderson, review of Writing Women in Jacobean England, pp. 217-225.

Feminist Studies, summer, 1994, Margaret W. Ferguson, review of Writing Women in Jacobean England, pp. 349-366.

Journal of English and Germanic Philology, October, 1994, Margaret P. Hannay, review of Writing Women in Jacobean England, pp. 572-576.

New Republic, August 2, 1993, David Norbrook, review of Writing Women in Jacobean England, pp. 44-46.

Renaissance Quarterly, spring, 1994, Betty S. Travitsky, review of Writing Women in Jacobean England, pp. 216-217.

Review of English Studies, November, 1995, Janet Clare, review of Writing Women in Jacobean England, pp. 558-559; May, 2002, Gordon Campbell, review of The Life of John Milton, pp. 253-255.

Times Literary Supplement, March 7, 1980; June 22, 2001, Daniel Swift, review of The Life of John Milton, pp. 4-5.


Blackwell Publishers Web site, (April 4, 2002).

Harvard University, Faculty of Arts & Science Web site, (April 1, 2002).*

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