MacArthur Fellows Program

Susan Stewart

Poet and Literary Critic | Class of 1997

Poet and Literary Critic
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
45 at time of award
Published July 1, 1997

About Susan's Work

Susan Stewart is a literary critic and a poet whose scholarship spans the fields of folklore, anthropology, history, and cultural criticism.

A central theme in Stewart's work is the heterogeneity of culture, and the intellectual, ethical, and aesthetic methods of organization we use to derive meaning from it.  In On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (1984), she argues that we form our conceptions of the normal and the real by setting them beside their troubling alternatives; for example, in considering the ordinary in scale we must study the miniature and the gigantic.  Stewart is the author of several books, including Nonsense: Aspects of Intertextuality in Folklore and Literature (1979), Crimes of Writing (1991), and Poetry and the Fate of the Senses (2001).  She has also published four volumes of poetry: Yellow Stars and Ice (1981), The Hive (1987), The Forest (1995), and Columbarium (2003).


Stewart is a professor of English at Princeton University.  She served previously as a professor of English at Temple University and as the Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.

Stewart received a B.A. (1973) from Dickinson College, an M.A. (1975) from the Johns Hopkins University, and a Ph.D. (1978) from the University of Pennsylvania.

Recent News

In addition to a fifth volume of poetry, Red Rover (2008), Stewart has published translations of Alda Merini's Love Lessons (2009) and Milo De Angelis's Theme of Farewell and After-Poems (2013), as well as the prose books The Open Studio: Essays on Art and Aesthetics (2005), a collection of her writings on contemporary art, and The Poet's Freedom (2011). She received an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for her poetry in 2009. Her work appears in many anthologies and has been translated into German and Italian, where her selected poems appeared in 2012 with Jaca Books, Milan. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, Stewart also was a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2005 to 2011. Her song cycle, "Songs for Adam," commissioned by the Chicago Symphony with music by the composer James Primosch, had its world premiere with baritone Brian Mulligan and the CSO, Sir Andrew Davis conducting, in October 2009. In 2014 she was a Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. Stewart is currently the Avalon Foundation University Professor in the Humanities: Professor of English at Princeton University. She also serves as Director of Princeton's Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and is a member of the associated faculty of the Department of Art and Archaeology.  

Updated January 2015

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