MacArthur Award: Dr. Stewart of English

An alumna and new faculty member of SAS has been named a MacArthur Fellow, winning the prestigious award that carries no obligations and has been nicknamed the "genius award." But when the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced on June 17 that "Dr. Susan Stewart, a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania" was one of this year's 23 recipients, no one could find Dr. Stewart in the Penn phone book. The reason: her appointment to the faculty, and her designation as the Donald T. Regan Professor of English, were still in process. (The Trustees passed the appointments and promotions June 20, and she took the endowed chair effective July 1.)

"I am delighted that Professor Stewart has been named a MacArthur Fellow on the eve of her arrival at the University," said SAS Dean Walter Wales. "This honor pays great tribute to the very talents we sought in brining her to Penn. I know that she will be a splendid addition to our already distinguished English faculty."

Dr. Stewart is a noted poet and scholar who took her B.A. in 1973 from Dickinson College, her M.A. in 1975 from Johns Hopkins, and her Ph.D. in 1978 from Penn in Folklore and Folklife. She began her teaching career immediately at Temple University, and has remained there ever since, serving also as Poet in the Schools in 1978-82 under the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts program of that name.

One of Penn's most eminent graduates, admired in scholarly and poetic circles in this country and Great Britain, Dr. Stewart is ranked as one of the most distinguished American experts in 20th Century literature, literary theory and cultural history, in addition to being an internationally recognized poet and commentator on the arts. "Her scholarship is marked by its originality and felicitous expression, but even more by the enormous range and consequence of its insights," said an English Department commendation in proposing her appointment to the Regan Chair.

She is the author of three scholarly books: Nonsense: Aspects of Intertextuality in Folkore and Literature (Johns Hopkins 1979) considers nonsense in children's literature, traditional folk verse and high art. On Longing. Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Johns Hopkins 1984), has significance beyond the literary academy, well known to and cited by active artists. Her latest is Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation (Oxford 1991). The first two have been published in Japanese and the second is available also in German.

Her three volumes of poetry are Yellow Stars and Ice (Princeton 1981), The Hive (Georgia 1987) and The Forest (Chicago 1995.) Her books and some 20 papers, along with her teaching--not only at the undergraduate and graduate level but in the public schools and community centers out of her commitment to bring poetry widely accessible--have earned her numerous awards including Guggenheim, Pew and Getty fellowships and the Lila Wallace Foundation Individual Writer's Award.

In awarding her a prize of $280,000, the MacArthur Foundation cited her work on how literary practices have influenced social perception and activity. She is also at work on a study of the lyric, following a thread from classicaltimes to the present in the representation of the senses and experience in lyric form.

Photo: Dr. Stewart is traveling and could not be reached for a photograph. Above, courtesy of Penn Book Center, is her first volume of poems, with Edward Hopper's Rooms by the Sea on the cover.


Volume 44 Number 1
July 15, 1997

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