Leading poetry critic Helen H. Vendler has accepted a long-standing tenure offer after dividing her time between Harvard and Boston University (BU) for four years, English department officials said yesterday.
Her appointment will take effect in July, making her the 23rd woman on a tenured faculty of 358.
Vendler, who holds a tenure level position at BU, originally declined a 1981 Harvard tenure offer "because she didn't want to leave BU in a lerch," said Patricia B. Craddock, chairman of the BU English department.
"I discovered I could be happy at Harvard," said Vendler, who has taught one term a year at Harvard since she received the tenure offer.
Sources said that Vendler has rejected other top appointments, including a 1972 offer from Yale University.
"Her credentials are such that she could teach anywhere she wanted," said William G. Riggs, associate professor of English at BU.
"She is the most distinguished critic of English poetry alive," said Lowell Professor of the Humanities William Alfred.
A former president of the Modern Language Association. Vendler has judged for the Pulitzer Prize and the Guggenheim Award. She holds numerous literary honors, including an award from the National Academy of Arts and Letters for creative work in criticism.
She is currently writing a book on the structure of Shakespeare's sonnets and compiling an anthology of American poetry.
Vendler said she plants to teach four courses next year instead of the two courses she has been teaching as a visiting professor.
"She's absolutely the most excusing professor I've had here," said Nara Schoenberg '87, who took Literature and Arts A-22. "Pets, Poems, Poetry" with Vendler last fall. "I wandered into the course and felt like I had to take it."
According to Gurney Professor of English Literature Jerome H. Buckley. Vendler accepted the visiting professorship as an opportunity to test the waters at Harvard.
After receiving the tenure offer, she sought hall-time appointments from each university. Cassock said. Harvard agreed to a joint appointment, but BU President John R. Silber refused, she added.
Silber later allowed Vendler to keep her BU chair while spending alternate semesters at Harvard, Craddock said