Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English
Late nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature; modern poetry; culture of the American South; connections between the United States and Asia; visual arts, craft traditions, and American culture; Emily Dickinson.
Christopher Benfey is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English and Acting Dean of Faculty at Mount Holyoke, where he has taught since 1989. He was educated at the Putney School, Earlham College, Guilford College, and Harvard (from which he holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature). He has held fellowships from the Danforth Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 2012, Benfey was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's most prestigious honorary societies. In 2013, he won the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award, of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which is given to a writer whose work merits recognition for the quality of its prose style and brings with it a $10,000 prize.
A prolific journalist, Benfey served as the long-time art critic for the online magazine Slate, and is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic, among many other publications.
A well known scholar of Emily Dickinson, Benfey is the author of four highly regarded books about the American Gilded Age. These include A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade, which won both the 2009 Christian Gauss Award of Phi Beta Kappa and the Ambassador Book Award. He is also the author of The Double Life of Stephen Crane (1992); Degas in New Orleans (1997); and The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics, and the Opening of Old Japan (2003). For the prestigious Library of America editions, Benfey has edited both The American Writings of Lafcadio Hearn and the complete poems of Stephen Crane. His edition of essays on the Iliad by Simone Weil and Rachel Bespaloff appeared as War and the Iliad (NYRB Classics, 2005).
Benfey's poems have appeared in The New Yorker, the Paris Review, and Ploughshares. His family memoir, Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay; Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival, is to be published in the spring of 2012 by Penguin. The book explores strands of Benfey’s family involving brick-making, pottery traditions in North Carolina, and the pioneering educational institution of Black Mountain College.
- Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay (Penguin 2012)
- A Summer of Hummingbirds (Penguin 2008)
- The Great Wave (Random House 2003)
- Degas in New Orleans (Knopf 1997) The Double Life of Stephen Crane (Knopf 1992)
- Emily Dickinson and the Problem of Others (UMass 1984)
- "Rudyard Kipling Was a Great American"
New Republic, December 6, 2013
- "NYRB: Benfey Reviews Slavery Film"
The New York Review of Books, November 5, 2013
- "Benfey Reviews Biography for New York Times"
NY Times Sunday Book Review, October 25, 2013
- "Benfey Responds to Willa Cather’s Letters"
New Republic, October 12, 2013
- "Benfey Pens Tribute to Heaney"
The New York Review of Books, September 1, 2013
- "It Takes the Village ‘Fin & Lady,’ by Cathleen Schine"
NY Times Sunday Book Review, July 26, 2013
- "The Alibi of Ambiguity"
The New Republic, June 7, 2012
- "Digging in the dirt, author Christopher Benfey unearths his family's story"
Chicago Tribune, May 23, 2012
- "Benfey Explores His Family in Memoir"
Offfice of Communications, May 18, 2012
- "Back Stories 'Lives of the Novelists,' by John Sutherland"
NY Times Sunday Book Review, May 11, 2012
- "Fast Company 'Derby Day,' D.J Taylor's Horse Racing Satire"
NY Times Sunday Book Review, May 4, 2012
- "Mt. Holyoke Professor's New Book Garners High Praise"
New England Public Radio, April 30, 2012
- "The Shape of Things to Come. 'Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay,' by Christopher Benfey"
NY Times Sunday Book Review, April 20, 2012
- "Benfey Elected to Academy of Arts and Sciences"
Office of Communications, April 17, 2012
- "This Week's Hot Reads"
The Daily Beast, April 9, 2012
- "Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay"
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2012
- "The Far-Apart Artists"
The New York Review of Books, January 3, 2012, Review of My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz Volume I, 1915–1933, edited by Sarah Greenough; Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 13, 2011–January 2, 2012, Catalog of the exhibition edited by Lisa Mintz Messinger; Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction, edited by Barbara Haskell, with essays by Barbara Haskell, Barbara Buhler Lynes, Bruce Robertson, and Elizabeth Hutton Turner, and contributions by Sasha Nicholas
- "How to Be the Photograph"
The New York Review of Books, December 13, 2011
- "Revisiting Camelot"
NY Times Sunday Book Review, December 2, 2011
- "Someone Else's Children"
The New York Review of Books, November 28, 2011
- "Mitt, We Hardly Knew Ye!"
The New York Review of Books, November 10, 2011
- "Why Tolstoy, Lenin, Van Gogh, and America Were Hit By It"
The New York Review of Books, October 27, 2011, Review of Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Battle for America by David S. Reynolds
- "A Keats Brother on the American Frontier,"
NY Times Sunday Book Review, October 14, 2011
- "In Praise of Tranströmer the Transformer--and His Translator, Robert Bly," The New Republic, October 7, 2011
- "The Afterglow of John La Farge"
The New York Review of Books, June 23, 2011, Review of John La Farge's Second Paradise: Voyages in the South Seas, 1890-1891: an exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, October 19, 2010-January 2, 2011; and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts, January 22-March 27, 2011
- "Winslow Homer: the Stern Facts"
The New York Review of Books, March 24, 2011, Review of Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer's Civil War by Peter H. Wood
- Emily's Revolution
The New York Review of Books, November 25, 2010, Review of Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries by Helen Vendler
- "Benfey Reviews New Darwin Books"
NY Times Sunday Book Review, February 2, 2009
- "Benfey's Book Names Among Year's Best"
Office of Communications, December 9, 2008
- "Benfey Reviews Brownrigg Novel"
NY Times Sunday Book Review, November 18, 2008
- "The Shrinking Woman,"
The New York Times, November 14, 2008
- "Joyce Carol Oates on Benfey's Latest Book,"
The New York Review of Books, September 25, 2008
- "Designing Dictators,"
The New York Times, August 3, 2008
- "Benfey's New Book Wins Wide Praise"
Office of Communications, June 23, 2008
- "Boston Globe Reviews New Book by Benfey"
Boston Globe, April 20, 2008
- "Benfey Reads from New Book April 21,"
Amherst College, April 17, 2008
- "Republican Reviews Benfey's Latest"
Springfield Republican, April 13, 2008
- "Benfey Reviews Woodward Novel"
New York Times Book Review, March 31, 2008
- America Audacity: Literary Essays North and South
(The University of Michigan Press)
- "MHC's Benfey Reviews Woodward Novel"
New York Times Book Review, March 30, 2008
- "The Art of War,"
The New York Times, January 27, 2008
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