Helen Hennessy Vendler (born April 30, 1933 in Boston, MA) is an American literary critic and is the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University.
Vendler has written books on Emily Dickinson, W. B. Yeats, Wallace Stevens, John Keats, and Seamus Heaney. She has been a professor of English at Harvard University 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 with whom she had one son. In 1992 Vendler received a Litt. D. from Bates College.
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 & American Literature from Harvard. She has also been a judge for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award, in poetry.
In 2004, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Vendler for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Vendler's lecture, entitled "The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar," used a number of poems by Wallace Stevens to argue for the role of the arts (as opposed to history and philosophy) in the study of humanities...
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