English Dept. Nixes Boone

Junior Prof Denied Tenure by Divided Department

The English Department last week voted overwhelmingly not to tenure Associate Professor of English Joseph A. Boone, the junior professor said yesterday.

An expert on the 19th-century and 20th-century novel who uses feminist methodology, Boone said English Department head Robert J. Kiely informed him last Wednesday that the department had not backed him.

Boone, who has taught at Harvard for seven years, has written a widelyacclaimed book on the portrayal of love in fiction and is currently writing a second book on sexuality and the narrative. He is a two-time finalist in the Undergraduate Council's Levenson Award competition for outstanding teaching.

Boone, who was one of two associate English professors up for promotion, said he is currently being considered for a tenured post at another university. He added that he may stay at Harvard next year if that falls through.

Professors divided over just why Boone's bid failed, with many arguing that it was because he covered too narrow a field and others saying it stemmed from concern that a more prominent outside scholar could be appointed instead.


The vote against Boone comes in the midst of an effort to revitalize the department through a restructuring of the deaprtment's appointments process which is expected to yield roughly six new senior-level appointments this year.

In an unusual move, Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence last year appointed a committee of six outside scholars and two Harvard administrators to advise the department on its openings and on the direction the department should take in the future.

Since the creation of the outside committee, the department has extended formal offers to two prominent outside scholars and is considering making a third.

Although committee members and adminstrators say that the two internal tenure candidates--Boone and Associate Professor of English Literature Deborah E. Nord--would be additional appointments and were not to beconsidered as part of the roughly six newappointments, English professors said that theissue was unclear when Boone's case was discussed.

"There is a tension between the goal ofreconstituting the department from outside withthe biggest names we can get and a genuineinterest in promoting and developing the juniorfaculty here, and Joe got caught in the middle ofall that," said one junior professor who spoke onthe condition of anonymity.

Professor of English William Alfred said thedepartment's deliberations last week centered on"what the department needed at this particulartime in the way of coverage." Alfred, who said thevote on Boone was divided but not close, addedthat "some particular people thought he didn'tcover a wide enough range" within the field of thenovel.

Alfred stressed that "it wasn't hisscholarship, which is enormously distinguished, itwas his field" which led to the tenure denial.

Judith L. Ryan, head of the ComparativeLiterature Department and a member of the EnglishDepartment's outside advisory committee, saidyesterday that while she had not yet heard of thedepartment's vote on Boone, it made sense for thefaculty to compare "Joe Boone with anybody else inhis field."

She said the advisory body had not specificallyconsidered Boone's case when it last met inOctober, but she said the committee was aware ofhow any internal promotions would affect thefuture of the department and its teaching needs.

"While they are going to be consideredseparately, our committee has been of course awareof them as they affect the total picture," shesaid. "We've been aware of the internal candidatesbut their positions are not amongst the sixpositions--they would be additional slots."

Ryan said the head of the advisory group,Rutgers Professor of English Richard Poirer, hadspoken with Kiely about the department's longrangeplans and how they affect the cases of the juniorfaculty.

Kiely, who did not return repeated phone callsyesterday, said last month that he was interestedin promoting junior faculty and that Boone was oneof the finalists for a position in the novelsarea. Kiely said at the time that the Departmentwas seeking to fill two positions in that field