The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar

Helen Vendler: The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar. Essays on Poets and Poetry. Harvard University Press. 2015. Review in today’s Times Higher Education.

“My first puzzle as an adolescent was how could one know, if one had never seen a ballet before, that one dancer just hadn’t done a certain movement adequately? How could one perceive that something was wrong in the phrasing of a musical moment, if one had never heard that aria before? The presence of an invisible contour of the perfect inhabiting the mind and testing all performances against itself was amazing to me.” Helen Vendler

“In the end, Vendler majored in chemistry, and then won a Fulbright scholarship to study mathematics in Belgium. While there, she obtained permission to study English literature instead […]. After an unsuccessful application to Harvard for graduate study, she prepared for a second attempt by taking six courses in English a term at Boston University, and was finally admitted to Harvard’s PhD programme. When she arrived to register, the chairman of the department told her, “You know we don’t want you here, Miss Hennessy: we don’t want any women here.” She was shaken, but continued.” Elizabeth Greene, from the review.

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