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Helen Vendler

Helen Vendler

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Encyclopedia
Helen Hennessy Vendler is a leading American critic of poetry.

Life and career


Vendler has written books on Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a successful family with strong community ties, she lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life...

, W. B. Yeats, Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens was an American Modernist poet. He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, educated at Harvard and then New York Law School, and spent most of his life working as a lawyer for the Hartford insurance company in Connecticut.His best-known poems include "Anecdote of the Jar",...

, John Keats
John Keats
John Keats was an English Romantic poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.Although his poems were not...

, and Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He lives in Dublin. Heaney has received the Nobel Prize in Literature , the Golden Wreath of Poetry , T. S. Eliot Prize and two Whitbread prizes...

. She has been a professor of English at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 since 1984; between 1981 and 1984 she taught alternating semesters at Harvard and Boston University. In 1990 she was appointed to an endowed chair as the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor. She is the first woman to hold this position. She has also taught at Cornell University, Swarthmore and Smith Colleges, and Boston University. She married (then later divorced) the philosopher Zeno Vendler
Zeno Vendler
Zeno Vendler was an American philosopher of language, and a founding member and former director of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Calgary. His work on lexical aspect, quantifiers, and nominalization has been influential in the field of linguistics.-Life:Vendler was born and...

 with whom she had one son. In 1992 Vendler received a Litt. D. from Bates College
Bates College
Bates College is a highly selective, private liberal arts college located in Lewiston, Maine, in the United States. and was most recently ranked 21st in the nation in the 2011 US News Best Liberal Arts Colleges rankings. The college was founded in 1855 by abolitionists...

.

Vendler did not major in English as an undergraduate. She earned an A.B. in chemistry at Emmanuel College. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for mathematics, before earning her Ph.D. in English
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

 & American Literature
American literature
American literature is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States. During its early history, America was a series of British...

 from Harvard. She has also been a judge for the Pultizer Prize and the National Book award, in poetry.

In 2004, the National Endowment for the Humanities
National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency of the United States established by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. The NEH is located at...

 selected Vendler for the Jefferson Lecture
Jefferson Lecture
The Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities is an honorary lecture series established in 1972 by the National Endowment for the Humanities . According to the NEH, the Lecture is "the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities."-History of...

, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities
Humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

. Vendler's lecture, entitled "The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar," used a number of poems by Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens was an American Modernist poet. He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, educated at Harvard and then New York Law School, and spent most of his life working as a lawyer for the Hartford insurance company in Connecticut.His best-known poems include "Anecdote of the Jar",...

 to argue for the role of the arts (as opposed to history and philosophy) in the study of humanities.

She is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters is a learned society based in Oslo, Norway.-History:The University of Oslo was established in 1811. The idea of a learned society in Christiania surfaced for the first time in 1841. The city of Throndhjem had no university, but had a learned...

.

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