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University of Washington Press releases Robert B. Heilman: His Life in Letters

University of Washington Press has published correspondence by the late Robert Heilman ’27, a great literary figure of the 20th century, in Robert B. Heilman: His Life in Letters.

The book includes more than 600 exchanges with over 100 correspondents, including Saul Bellow, Kenneth Burke, Malcolm Cowley, Richard Eberhart, Charles Johnson, Bernard Malamud, and William Carlos Williams. The letters follow Heilman’s career from the time he was a 36-year-old member of Louisiana State University’s English department, through his tenure at the University of Washington from 1948 to 1975, until a few years before his death in 2004.

Heilman graduated as class valedictorian from Lafayette and received his Ph.D. in English from Harvard University in 1935. He taught at Ohio University and the University of Maine before accepting a position at LSU in 1935. While there, he developed relationships with many prominent southern writers and critics associated with the New Criticism movement. In 1948, Heilman joined the University of Washington faculty, where he served as chair of the English department for over two decades. Under his leadership, the department grew in national stature, attracting high-profile faculty and visiting scholars.

Heilman’s academic interests included eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English and American literature, as well as Shakespeare. He authored 14 books and edited 12 others, the last of which was published in 1999. He received five honorary degrees, two Guggenheim fellowships, and one fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Lafayette awarded him the George Washington Kidd 1836 Award for career distinction in 1983.

The naming of the Heilman Room in Skillman Library recognized the generosity of his estate, which donated $150,000 to establish an endowment for the purchase of books in the humanities.

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