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Barbara Kiefer Lewalski

February 22, 1931 March 2, 2018
Barbara Kiefer Lewalski
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Obituary for Barbara Kiefer Lewalski

Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, 87, of 166 University Ave, passed away suddenly on March 2nd. She was a passionate scholar and prolific author, a tireless advocate for her students and an enthusiastic world traveler. From 1982-2010, she was chair of the History and Literature program at Harvard University, holding the William R. Kenan Professor of English Literature and of History and Literature and was Director of Graduate Studies from 1997-2003. From 1956 82 she taught at Brown University, holding the positions of Alumni Alumnae University Professor from 1976 82, Director of Graduate Studies in English from 1968 72 and Chair of the Renaissance Studies Program from 1976 80.
She was the author of landmark books of criticism on John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and her biography of Milton and her book on early modern women writers, Writing Women in Jacobean England are among her indispensable scholarly achievements. Her university career was equally groundbreaking. Barbara K. Lewalski was the first woman to be tenured and to hold endowed chairs at Brown University and then at Harvard University. She was awarded numerous grants and fellowships including a Fulbright Travel Grant, a NEA Senior Fellowship and two Guggenheim Fellowships. For four years she taught seminars at the Folger Shakespeare library and in 1986-87 was chosen to participate in the Distinguished Scholars Exchange Program lecturing at the Beijing Foreign Studies University as well as other institutions in China. She was active in MLA since 1956, became an Executive Council Member from 1980-1984 and presented over a dozen papers at annual conferences.
Barbara was elected to: The American Philosophical Society (1986), The American Academy of Arts and Sciences AAAS (1980), The International Association of University Professors of English (1977) and chosen as an Honored Scholar by The Milton Society of America (1977).
Barbara Kiefer Lewalski found her kindred spirit in her husband, history Professor Kenneth F. Lewalski (1925-2006). Married for 50 years, their shared passion of exploration and travel never dimmed. Travelling and often living overseas with her family created an indelible experience and formed lasting memories for all of us. Barbara is survived by a son, David Lewalski and daughter in law, Laurence Riviere Lewalski.
A service of remembrance will be held on Monday March 12th at 4 pm at the Monahan, Drabble & Sherman Funeral Home, 230 Waterman St., Providence. A reception will follow. Calling hours are Monday from 1-4 pm. Feel free to add comments or thoughts on the Tribute Wall at Monahan, Drabble & Sherman Funeral Home’s website. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to in her name to the Rhode Island Philharmonic or to Doctors Without Borders.

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