Fellow: Awarded 2010
Field of Study: American Literature
Competition: US & Canada
Throughout her career, Betsy Erkkilä has enriched the study of American literature with her ability to see and convey the interconnections and cross influences between literature and political culture, particularly in regard to the work of Walt Whitman. During her Guggenheim Fellowship term, she will be completing a study of Revolutionary literature and politics.
After completing her undergraduate studies in English and history at the University of California, Berkeley (B.A., 1966), Ms. Erkkilä spent a year at the University of Grenoble studying French before returning to Berkeley to begin her graduate work as a Ford Foundation Fellow, earning her M.A. in 1969 and her Ph.D. in 1976. After a two-year appointment as a Fulbright Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Amiens, she returned to the United States , spending six years as a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the California State University, Chico, before taking up a position as Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania (1980-94). Since 1995, she has been Henry Sanborn Noyes Professor of English at Northwestern University.
Among her most notable publications are Walt Whitman Among the French: Poet and Myth (Princeton UP, 1980), Whitman the Political Poet (Oxford UP, 1989), The Wicked Sisters: Women Poets, Literary History, and Discord (Oxford UP, 1992), and Mixed Bloods and Other Crosses: Rethinking American Literature from the Revolution to the Culture Wars (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 2005). More recently, she edited Walt Whitman’s Live Oak, with Moss and Calamus (Iowa UP, 2010) and Ezra Pound: The Contemporary Reviews (Cambridge UP, 2010). The Whitman Revolution: Why Poetry Matters is forthcoming from Iowa University Press.