James A. Winn



BA, Princeton University
PhD, Yale University

Room 232
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James A. Winn took his undergraduate degree at Princeton summa cum laude and received his Ph.D. from Yale, where he wrote his dissertation under Maynard Mack. He has taught at Yale (1974–1983), the University of Michigan (1983–1998), and Boston University (1998–present). He served as Chairman of the Department of English from 1998 until 2007, and has served since 2008 as Director of the Boston University Center for the Humanities.

Winn’s scholarly work combines a deep commitment to the literature of England in the Restoration and early eighteenth century with a broad interest in the relations between literature and the other arts. His first book, A Window in the Bosom: The Letters of Alexander Pope (1977), was the first extended study of Pope’s correspondence; his second, Unsuspected Eloquence: A History of the Relations between Poetry and Music (1981) remains the only general study of its kind. His biography of Dryden, John Dryden and his World (1987), won the British Humanities Council Prize and the Yale University Press Governors’ Award; it led to a further study placing Dryden and others in the context of Restoration music, painting, and gender politics: “When Beauty Fires the Blood”: Love and the Arts in the Age of Dryden (1992). Winn has edited book-length collections of essays on Pope and Dryden, written articles on subjects as diverse as Milton, Faulkner, and the Beatles, and ventured polemical pieces on deconstruction, the new historicism, and the practice of tenure. His scholarly interest in music reflects his continuing career as a concert flutist, and he has an additional appointment in the Department of Musicology.

Winn’s recent books have aimed at a wider audience. The Pale of Words: Reflections on the Humanities and Performance (Yale, 1998), is an expanded version of the James Murray Brown lectures, which he delivered at the University of Aberdeen in 1996. In this deliberately provocative book, Winn contends that the disciplines we call the humanities have identified themselves excessively with the written word. He exposes the hostility and fear with which writers and philosophers throughout Western history have regarded forms of expression not couched in words, despite the fact that much of what humanists study originates in performance. The Poetry of War (Cambridge, 2008), a book for general readers, is grounded in the belief that poetry tells the deepest truths about war. Drawing on poets from Homer to Bruce Springsteen, Winn shows how they express and question our personal reasons for fighting— honor, shame, comradeship, revenge—and how they shape and expose our corporate incentives for warfare—religion, empire, chivalry, freedom.

In July 2014, Oxford University Press published Queen Anne: Patroness of Arts,  Winn’s new royal biography. Research for this project was supported in 2008 by a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, and in 2012–13 by grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In this comprehensive interdisciplinary biography, richly illustrated with visual and musical examples, James Winn draws on works by Dryden, Pope, Purcell, Handel, Lely, Kneller, Wren, Vanbrugh, Addison, Swift, and many other artists to shed new light on the life and reign of Queen Anne (1665–1714).

Teaching and Research Interests
  • Restoration and eighteenth-century English literature
  • Literature and the other arts
Selected Publications
  • Queen Anne: Patroness of Arts (2014)
  • The Poetry of War (2008)
  • The Pale of Words: Reflections on the Humanities and Performance (1998)
  • “When Beauty Fires the Blood”: Love and the Arts in the Age of Dryden
  • John Dryden and his World (1987)
  • Unsuspected Eloquence: A History of the Relations between Poetry and Music (1981)
  • A Window in the Bosom: The Letters of Alexander Pope (1997)
  • “John Dryden, Court Theatricals, and the ‘Epilogue to the faithfull Shepheardess,’” Restoration 32 (2008): 45–54
  • “Dryden and Dorset in 1692: A New Record,” Philological Quarterly 85 (2006) [recte 2008]: 391–397
  • “Style and Politics in the Philips-Handel Ode for Queen Anne’s Birthday, 1713,” Music and Letters 89 (2008): 547–561
  • “Five Best,” The Wall Street Journal, 24 May 2008
  • “A Waste of Shame,” The Chronicle of Higher Education 54 (April 11, 2008): B16
  • “‘A Versifying Maid of Honour’: Anne Finch and the Libretto for Venus and Adonis,” RES (2007)
  • “‘Thy wars brought nothing about’: Dryden’s Critique of Military Heroism,” The Seventeenth Century (2006)
  • “Dryden’s Songs,” in Enchanted Ground:  Reimagining John Dryden, ed. Jayne Lewis and Maximillian E. Novak (2004)
  • “Past and Present in Dryden’s Fables,”Huntington Library Quarterly (2001)
  • “Dissonance: 1613–1798,”Eighteenth-Century Contexts: Historical Inquiries in Honor of Phillip Harth, ed. Howard Weinbrot and Peter Schakel (2001)
  • “‘According to my Genius’: Dryden’s Translation of ‘The First Book of Homer’s Ilias’,” in Tercentenary Essays on John Dryden, ed. Paul Hammond and David Hopkins (2000)
  • “Theatrical Culture II: Theatre and Music, 1656–1728,” inThe Cambridge Companion to Restoration English Literature (1997)
  • “Heroic Song: A Proposal for a Revised History of English Theatre and Opera, 1656–1711,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 30 (1997)
  • “An Old Historian Looks at the New Historicism,” in Comparative Studies in Society and History (1993)
  • “‘Dryden’s Epistle before Creech’s Lucretius’: A Study in Restoration Ghostwriting,” Philological Quarterly (1992)
  • “Bach at 300: Words, Notes, and Numbers,” New York Times Book Review (1985)
  • “The Beatles as Artists: A Meditation for December 9th,” Michigan Quarterly Review (1984)
  • “Pope Plays the Rake: His Letters to Ladies and the Making of the Eloisa,” in The Art of Alexander Pope (1979) (1992)
  • “John Dryden, Court Theatricals, and the ‘Epilogue to the faithfull Shepheardess,’” (1977)
Work in Progress
  • “Harmonious Sisters: A Study of Twelve Great Songs”
  • Guggenheim Fellowship (2013)
  • NEH Fellowship (2012)
  • ACLS Fellowship (2008)
  • William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor (2009)