The First Dozen Women Faculty

Josephine Miles

Josephine Miles (1940-1978)

Josephine Miles was the first woman to be awarded tenure in the English Department, in 1947, eighty years after UC’s founding.

See here for our essay on Josephine Miles’ trailblazing accomplishments.

See here for her prizewinning teaching.

Dorothee Finkelstein

Dorothee Metlitzki Finklestein


In 1964, Dorothee Finkelstein, author of Melville’s Orienda, was the second woman to be tenured by the Berkeley English Department.

See our essay on Finkelstein here.

Anne Middleton

Anne Middleton (1966-2006)

Anne Middleton came to Berkeley in 1966, with a PhD from Harvard, and in 1972 became the third woman to be tenured by the English Department. She was promoted to full professor in 1981—the year after she was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award (1980) by the Academic Senate. She was an internationally renowned scholar in the field of English medieval literature, publishing abundantly in academic journals; a collection of her essays—Chaucer, Langland and Fourteenth Century Literary History (2013)—was edited by Professor Stephen Justice and published in 2013. Middleton served as the English Department’s Chair from 1988 to 1992 and worked tirelessly on Academic Senate committees. She won numerous awards for both her scholarship and teaching: a Guggenheim Fellowship and an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship. The Northern California Phi Beta Kappa Association gave her an Excellence in Teaching Award (1999) to commemorate her inspirational work as an educator. She held the Florence Green Bixby Chair until 2006, and upon retirement, was awarded the Berkeley Citation for her distinguished and effective leadership. Because Professor Middleton substantially reshaped the field of English Medieval Studies, the International Piers Plowman Society has memorialized her contributions by creating the Anne Middleton Book Prize.

Read about Middleton’s administrative leadership here, and her prize-winning teaching here.

Academic Senate In Memoriam by Professor Steven Justice

The New Chaucer Society In Memoriam by Professor Steven Justice

Janet Adelman

Photo Credit: Brian Adelman

Janet Adelman (1968-2009)

Janet Adelman received her PhD from Yale and joined the Berkeley faculty  as an Assistant Professor in 1968. In 1972, she became the English Department’s fourth tenured female faculty member and eventually served as department chair from 1999 to 2002. As a scholar and teacher, Adelman used psychoanalytic and feminist theoretic frameworks to illuminate the works of William Shakespeare, especially their gender and racial dimensions. Early in her career, with a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, she explored psychoanalysis at the Hampstead and Tavistock Clinics in London, an experience that informed her crucial contributions to the field. Her ground breaking books on these topics include: Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare’s Plays (1992) and Blood Relations: Christian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice (2008). In addition to being an innovative critic, Adelman was also a favorite of Berkeley students, receiving both the Distinguished Teaching Award (1986) and the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of Graduate Student Instructors (2006). She continued to teach undergraduate courses, many at the introductory level, following her 2007 retirement. At the age of sixty-nine, Emerita Janet Adelman succumbed to lung cancer in 2010, leaving behind an unforgettable legacy.

For Adelman’s administrative leadership, see here. See here for her prizewinning teaching.

Obituary by Professor Elizabeth Abel

Berkeley News Article

Wikipedia Profile

Carol T. Christ

Photo Credit: Hulda Nelson, Berkeley Gallery


Carol T. Christ (1970-2002; 2015-Present)

Carol Christ is now primarily known as the first woman to be appointed Chancellor of UC Berkeley; but forty-seven years before achieving that milestone, her academic career began in the English Department. In 1970, she joined UC as an Assistant Professor of English with a focus on British Victorian Literature; she was tenured in 1975. During the 1970s, she was an active member of the Department’s Women’s Caucus, and she taught the first women’s literature courses. After her promotion to full professor, she served as the English Department’s first woman Chair for three years and thus began climbing the administrative ladder, which took her beyond the department and into the highest ranks of university leadership for several decades. In 2000, Christ returned to teaching in the English department for two years before leaving Berkeley to become the President of Smith College. Upon retiring from Smith, she returned to live in Berkeley and was soon coaxed back into university service. In addition to pursuing an administrative career, Christ published scholarly works of criticism on Victorian literature, including two books: The Finer Optic: The Aesthetic of Particularity in Victorian Poetry (1975) and Victorian and Modern Poetics (1994). Moreover, even while devoting herself to university administration, she has contributed to the discipline by editing the Norton Anthology of English Literature, advising English PhD students, and teaching freshman and sophomore seminars.

Read more about Carol Christ’s administrative career here.

Office of the Chancellor Biography

Department Profile

Daily California Article

Wikipedia Article

Carolyn Porter

Photo Credit: Berkeley Academia


Carolyn Porter (1974-2006)

After receiving a PhD in American Literature from Rice University in 1973, Carolyn Porter joined the Berkeley English Department in 1974 as an Assistant Professor. Eventually Porter would go on to be the sixth female faculty member to receive tenure within the department, serving until her retirement in 2006. Porter’s teaching and research specialty was American literature throughout the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, with particular interests in gender and sexuality, critical theory, and narrative and the novel. Porter’s books examine both nineteenth and twentieth American writers, and they converge on the works of William Faulkner. They include two books: Seeing and Being: The Plight of the Participant-Observer in Emerson, James, Adams, and Faulkner (1981) and William Faulkner: Lives and Legacies (2007). Even after her retirement in 2006, Porter continued to be active in the English department as a Professor Emerita, returning in 2015 to teach a course on American Literature from 1900-1945.  She is working on a new book about Faulkner entitled, “Grim Sires and Spectral Mothers: the Family in Faulkner.”

Read about Carolyn Porter’s administrative career here.

Department Profile

Berkeley Academia

Ann Banfield

Photo Credit: Durham University


Ann Banfield (1975-2010)

Ann Banfield received her PhD. in English from the University of Wisconsin in 1973, but she had begun studying linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1966-68, setting the course of her future research. While still a graduate student, Banfield taught at the Université de Paris 8 (1969-70), and before joining the Berkeley English Department in 1975, she taught at the University of Washington (1973-75). After arriving at Berkeley, she remained in the department for over three decades. In that time, Banfield earned many fellowships: ACLS and Guggenheim Fellowships, a University of California President’s Fellowship, and two residential fellowships at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study Center, and one at Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study. The result has been a series of publications that helped shape contemporary narrative theory, including three groundbreaking books: Unspeakable Sentences: Narration and Representation in the Language of Fiction (1982), The Phantom Table: Woolf, Fry, Russell and the Epistemology of Modernism (2000), and Describing the Unobserved and Other Essays (2018).  Professor Banfield’s works have never been narrowly limited to an individual field; her research explores a combination of English, French, Linguistics, and Philosophy. Banfield continues to make contributions to several disciplines.

Department Profile

Durham University Profile

Wikipedia Article

Julia Bader

Julia Bader (1975-2010)

After completing her PhD at UC Berkeley, Julia Bader was hired as an Assistant Professor in the English Department in 1975. She was tenured in 1980 and retired in 2010. She published a book in 1972—Crystal Land: Artifice in Nabokov’s English Novels—and continued to write on Nabokov and other twentieth-century American writers, such as Flannery O’Connor, and Henry James. Her teaching and research interests have increasingly been devoted to film studies. She has taught numerous courses on film, exploring the works of Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, and the Coen Brothers, as well as broad topics like women’s film, comedy and film noir. She has presented scholarly papers at international conferences, and she plays an active role in the local film community, even serving as a judge for the Eisner Prize contest in short film at BAMPFA. During an interview with the Daily Cal, Professor Bader discussed the quest for self-knowledge and the representations of technology in Hitchcock’s Rear Window; she also commented on how the pervasiveness of electronic devices affects personal relationships. As a Professor Emerita, she has continued to teach undergraduate seminars.

Faculty Profile



Frances Ferguson

Frances Ferguson (1977-1988)

Hired as an Associate Professor in 1977, Professor Frances Ferguson became the eighth tenured female faculty member in the English Department and was promoted to full professor in 1986. Although Ferguson spent just over a decade at UC Berkeley, during that time she published her highly influential article, “Rape and the Rise of the Novel” (1987). Ferguson was a founding member of the humanities interdisciplinary journal Representations, which was started by Berkeley faculty in the early 1880s. She had already produced her first book on British romanticism when she came to Berkeley—Wordsworth: Language as Counter-Spirit—and her second—Solitude and the Sublime: Romanticism and Aesthetics of Individuation—appeared shortly after she left to take a job at Johns Hopkins University. Her research interests were not confined to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and her post-Berkeley writings have included essays on the philosophies of Kant, Burke, and Bentham, and two additional books: Pornography, The Theory: What Utilitarianism Did To Action (2005).  She moved to the University of Chicago in 2012, where she is the Buttenwieser Professor of English and the Editor-in-Chief of Critical Inquiry, the country’s premier journal of literary criticism. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Gray Center Profile

UChicago Faculty Profile

Wikipedia Profile

Humanities Division at Chicago

Catherine Gallagher

Catherine Gallagher (1980-2012)

The ninth female faculty member to be tenured in the English Department, Catherine Gallagher studies and taught the history and theory of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British novel. Her research has examined the intersections between the history of social and economic discourses and the development of literary forms. She was Chair of the English Department from 2002-5 and again in 2008-9. Professor Gallagher published many works of literary criticism and history, which include: The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form, 1832-67 (1985); Practicing New Historicism (2000); The Body Economic: Life, Death, and Sensation in Political Economy and the Victorian Novel (2006). In 1994, Nobody’s Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace, 1670-1820 won the MLA James Russell Lowell Prize for an outstanding literary study, and the American Philosophical Society awarded her most recent book, Telling It Like It Wasn’t: The Counterfactual Imagination in History and Fiction (2018), the Jaques Barzun Prize for the best work of the year in cultural history. Professor Gallagher was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002 and upon retirement was given the Berkeley Citation for making extraordinary contributions to the university.

Read about Catherine Gallagher’s administrative roles here.

Faculty Profile

Wikipedia Article

Jacques Barzun

Center for Humanities

Elizabeth F Abel

Photo Credit:  Yanina Gotsulsky

Elizabeth F. Abel (1983-Present)

Professor Elizabeth Abel joined the Berkeley English Department in 1982 as an Assistant Professor, after earning her PhD at Princeton in 1975 and teaching for several years at the University of Chicago. She soon became well-known as the editor behind a groundbreaking collection of essays, Writing and Sexual Difference, which helped change the methods of feminist criticism. She earned tenure in 1988. For thirty-seven years, Abel has continued to serve the department as one of its most talented and dedicated teachers; she was given the Distinguished Teaching Award, the campus’s top teaching honor, in 1997. Her research and teaching span American and British literature in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with two broad emphases: gender and sexuality in relation to psychoanalysis and the visuality of race and culture. Her publications include her solo books: Virginia Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis (1989) and Signs of the Times: The Visual Politics of Jim Crow (2010). She has also published several collaborative volumes: The Signs Reader on Women, Gender, and Scholarship; The Voyage In: Fictions of Female Development; Female Subjects in Black and White: Race, Psychoanalysis, Feminism (1997). Her own writing and her role in disseminating the work of others have made Abel a leading feminist theorist. Currently, Abel continues to teach both graduate and undergraduate courses for the department, while writing her new book, Woolf Tracks: Remapping Modernist Genealogies.

Read about Elizabeth Abel’s prizewinning teaching here.

Wikipedia Profile

Department Profile

Susan Schweik

Photo Credit:  Yanina Gotsulsky

Susan Schweik (1983-Present)

Hired by the English Department in 1983, Professor Susan Schweik is an innovative scholar and teacher in the fields of American literature, feminist theory, civil rights history, and disability studies. Only a few years into her teaching career, in 1989, Professor Schweik received the Distinguished Teaching Award; she was tenured in 1991. Professor Schweik’s published work includes many articles and two solo books, A Gulf So Deeply Cut: American Women Poets and the Second World War (1991), and The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public (2010). The latter is a social and cultural history of ordinances adopted by some American cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that prohibited “diseased,” “maimed,” and “deformed” people from exposing themselves to public view. Schweik is now at work on a new book, with the working title Unfixed: How the Women of Glenwood Asylum Overturned Ideas About IQ and Why You Don’t Know About Their Work. Her scholarly work, teaching, and university service have been deeply intertwined. In addition to researching and writing about the history of disability, she has taught numerous courses on the subject in the English Department, and she took the lead in the development of the Disability Studies Program at Berkeley. She held the Presidential Chair in Undergraduate Education for Disability Studies, and her dedication to the development of disability studies at Berkeley has led to several other initiatives, for which she was given the Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence (2007).

For Susan Schweik’s administrative leadership, see here, and here for an interview. See here for her prizewinning teaching.

Faculty Profile

Syracuse Distinguished Scholar

Profile by the Othering&Belonging Institute