Helen and Laura Shedd Professor Emerita of Modern Languages (English and Comparative Literature)
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Elizabeth Harries says she had a secret language when she was a child. Though it bore some slight resemblance to English, it was different enough to be interesting (to her and her best friend) and baffling to their parents. In college she studied French and Latin, as well as English, and afterwards lived in Germany for several years, thinking about the ways in which different languages reflect and determine cultural differences. Though she didn't actually start studying comparative literature formally until in her late twenties (at Yale), her reading and thinking had led up to it for years.
At Smith, teaching courses like Romanticism or Sonnets and Sonnet Cycles or the senior seminar gave her greater awareness of the complexities of the discipline. Talking to colleagues about what to require of majors was an exhilarating intellectual exercise.
Harries’ first book, The Unfinished Manner, was a study of literary fragments and artificial ruins in Europe in the late 18th century. Her book Twice Upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale grew out of a course on fairy tales; the book attempts to redefine both the history of the fairy tale in Europe and its role in our present culture.
She is currently working on two projects. The first (and currently foremost, nearly finished) is a history of Kneisel Hall, a summer chamber music school in Blue Hill, Maine, since 1902. The second is a study of narrative framing, or stories within stories and the ways they interact.
The Unfinished Manner (University of Virginia Press, 1994).
Twice Upon a Time (Princeton University Press, 2001).
"Words, Sex, and Gender in Sterne's Novels,” a chapter in Cambridge Companion to Sterne, ed. Tom Keymer.
"Ancient Forms," a chapter on A. S. Byatt in Fairy Tales and Contemporary Writers, ed. Stephen Benson.
"Unfinished Sentences: The Romantic Fragment,” a chapter in in Blackwells' European Romanticism, ed. Michael Ferber.