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Helen Vendler, Renowned Author, Scholar, and Poetry Critic, to Deliver the 2004 Jefferson Lecture

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 11, 2004)--Helen Vendler, author of numerous books on poets and poetry and a professor at Harvard University, will deliver the 2004 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced today. The annual NEH-sponsored Jefferson Lecture is the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.

"Through her many wonderful books, lectures, and reviews, Helen Vendler leads us first to understand and then to love the great poems and poets of the English language," said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. "Her vast learning, beautiful prose, and analytical powers bring the power and magic of the written word to life and into our lives."

Vendler will present the 33rd Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities on Thursday, May 6, 2004, at 7:30 p.m. in Washington, D.C. The lectureship carries a $10,000 honorarium.

"The young respond to poetry for the same reason I did at their age," Vendler said in one of her recent lectures. "Poems tell complex truths of human response, and they structure words with particular force, wit, charm, intellectual responsibility, and plangency."

Vendler is the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard, where she received her Ph.D. in English and American Literature in 1960. Before coming to Harvard in 1985, she taught at Cornell, Swarthmore, Haverford, Smith, and Boston University. She has held many fellowships and is a member of several academic organizations, including the Modern Language Association, of which she was president in 1980. She holds 23 honorary degrees from universities and colleges in the United States, England, Ireland, and Norway.

Vendler has written many books on poets and poetry, including Coming of Age as a Poet: Milton, Keats, Eliot, Plath (2003), Seamus Heaney (1998), The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets (1997), The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham (1995), The Given and the Made: Lowell, Berryman, Dove, Graham (1995), Soul Says: On Recent Poetry (1995), The Music of What Happens: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1988), Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire (1984; reprinted 1986), The Odes of John Keats (1983), Part of Nature, Part of Us: Modern American Poets (1980), The Poetry of George Herbert (1975), and On Extended Wings: Wallace Stevens' Longer Poems (1969), all published by Harvard University Press. She frequently reviews contemporary poetry for The New Republic, The London Review of Books, and other journals. She also lectures widely in the United States and abroad.

Born in Boston in 1933, Vendler earned an undergraduate degree (summa cum laude) in chemistry from Boston's Emmanuel College, and she went to the University of Louvain after graduation on a Fulbright fellowship. She currently lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has one son and two grandchildren, who have become her principal avocational interests.

Attendance at the lecture is by invitation and free. Those interested in receiving an invitation should call (202) 606-8400 or send an e-mail message to info@neh.gov.

Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and a list of previous Jefferson Lecturers is available on the Internet at www.NEH.gov.

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About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.

Media Contacts: Office of Communications at (202) 606-8446 or info@neh.gov