Curriculum Vitae

Helen Vendler is the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard, where she received her Ph.D. in English and American literature, after completing an undergraduate degree in chemistry at Emmanuel College. She has written books on Yeats, Herbert, Keats, Stevens, Shakespeare, Seamus Heaney, and Emily Dickinson. Her most recent books are The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar; Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries; Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill; and Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form. She is a frequent reviewer of poetry in such journals as The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic. Her avocational interests include music, painting, and medicine.

Lyric poetry, British and American.

Current Post
Harvard University, A. Kingsley Porter University Professor, 1990-present 

Previous Appointments

  • Harvard University, Visiting Professor, 1981-85; Professor, 1985-1990
  • Boston University, Associate Professor, 1966-69; Professor, 1969-1985
  • Smith College, Assistant Professor, 1964-66
  • Swarthmore and Haverford Colleges, Lecturer, 1963-64
  • Cornell University, Instructor, 1960-63
  • Harvard University, Member of the Board of Tutors, 1957-60


  • Fulbright Fellowship to Belgium, 1954-55
  • Phi Beta Kappa, 1960
  • Modern Language Association (MLA) James Russell Lowell Prize, 1969
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, 1971
  • NEH Senior Fellowship, 1971 (declined), 1980-81, 1986-87, 2005-06
  • Phi Beta Kappa Lecturer, 1976-77
  • Radcliffe College Graduate Society Medal, 1978
  • Who’s Who in America, 1980-
  • National Book Critics’ Circle Award for Criticism, 1981
  • NEH Jefferson Lecturer, 2004
  • National Gallery of Art Mellon Lecturer, “Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill.” Washington DC, 2007
  • Siemens Stiftung Fellow, Munich, Spring 2009
  • 28 honorary doctorates

Memberships and Offices Held

  • MLA: Executive Council Member, 1971-75; Second Vice President, 1978; First Vice President, 1979; President, 1980
  •  Guggenheim Fellowships Educational Advisory Board, 1990-95
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1972- ; Councilor, 1976-86; Committee on Meetings, 1981-1983; Emerson-Thoreau Prize Committee, 1984-87; Committee on Publications, 1985-86; Vice President, 1992-93
  • Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters Member, 1987
  • American Philosophical Society (APS) Member, 1992-
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Member, 1993- ; Vice-President for Literature, 2007-2010
  • Magdalene College Honorary Fellow, Cambridge, England, 1996
  • Pulitzer Prize in Poetry Judge (one of three), 1974, 1976, 1978; Chair, 1980, 1987, 1989, 1990, 2002; Advisory Board, 1990-99; Nominating Committee, 2003
  • Sub-Committee on Awards in Literary Criticism, Guggenheim Foundation, Member, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1986; Sub-Committee on Poetry, 1981-85
  • Harvard University Society of Fellows, Acting Senior Fellow, 1976-77; Senior Fellow, 1980-93; Acting Senior Fellow, 1996-97
  • New York Times Book Review, Consultant Poetry Editor, 1971-74
  • Poetry Critic, The New Yorker, 1978-98
  • The New Republic Contributing Editor, 2002-


Professor Vendler has developed, and taught many times, a course called “Poems, Poets, Poetry” (an introduction to thinking about poetry, through an extensive and intensive study of English and American poems from Shakespeare to the present).

She regularly teaches undergraduate courses (Modern American Poetry as well as lecture courses on individual poets or groups of poets), undergraduate seminars (Criticism of Poetry; Lowell, Bishop, Berryman; and individual seminars on Keats, Shakespeare, Yeats, and Whitman), and graduate seminars (Describing the Lyric, Shakespeare, Keats, Hopkins, Yeats, Whitman, and Stevens).