Oct. 17, 2006

Literary critic Sandra Gilbert named M.H. Abrams Distinguished Visiting Professor

The Department of English has established the M.H. Abrams Distinguished Visiting Professorship in honor of the renowned Cornell professor emeritus of English. Sandra M. Gilbert '57, a prominent literary critic at the University of California-Davis, has accepted the inaugural visiting professorship for the spring 2007 semester.

The professorship was made possible through a gift from Stephen H. Weiss '57, former chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees. Weiss made the gift in honor of his longtime friend, M.H. (Mike) Abrams, a highly respected literary scholar who is best known for his analysis of the Romantic period in English literature. Abrams' works include "The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition," and he served as editor of the Norton Anthology of English Literature for more than 40 years. The New York Times has called the anthology "the sine qua non of college textbooks, setting the agenda for the study of English literature in this country and beyond."

The visiting professorship will celebrate Abrams' contributions to Cornell, whose faculty he joined in 1945, and the field of English by enabling the department to bring distinguished visitors to teach and interact with students and faculty. Gilbert, who studied with Abrams as a Cornell undergraduate, will be a featured speaker at a conference honoring Abrams and inaugurating the distinguished visiting professorship in his name in early 2007.

"We are thrilled that Professor Gilbert has accepted the appointment," said Molly Hite, chair of the English department at Cornell. "She is the perfect choice to inaugurate the visiting professorship and will certainly enhance the department and the experiences of students and faculty during her time here."

During Gilbert's appointment, she will teach an upper-division undergraduate and a graduate seminar, both on topics related to gender studies.

"I'm truly honored to accept your wonderful offer. It's so extraordinarily flattering to be asked to occupy the Abrams Visiting Professorship -- a position named for my all-time-favorite teacher, sometimes I think my only teacher -- that I hardly know how to formulate my gratitude," said Gilbert.

Gilbert's groundbreaking 1979 work, co-authored with Susan Gubar, "The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination," framed many terms of the debates in gender studies that have continued into the 21st century. Gilbert and Gubar subsequently co-edited "The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women" and a new anthology about to be published, "The Norton Reader in Feminist Criticism and Theory." They also wrote the three-volume study "No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century" (1988-94).

Gilbert also has written extensively about modernist writers, especially D.H. Lawrence, Kate Chopin and W.B. Yeats. She is the author of several books of poetry. She received Rockefeller, Guggenheim and NEH fellowships, was declared a Ms. Magazine "Woman of the Year" and served as president of the Modern Language Association.