Biography and History

Born in Douglas, Isle of Man, Sir Frank Kermode was one of the most distinguished literary critics of his time. He was Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College, London (1967-1974) when, under his leadership, the English department offered a series of graduate seminars which introduced contemporary French critical theory to Britain for the first time. Kermode was also King Edward Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University (1974-1982), teacher at numerous universities including Harvard and Columbia, and author or editor of more than fifty volumes. He was a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Sciences. Kermode was co-editor of the magazine Encounter with Melvin J. Lasky from around 1958 to 1967, when he resigned after learning of the covert U.S. Central Intelligence Agency funding of the magazine. Encounter (London, England) was a controversial literary magazine, founded in 1953 by poet Stephen Spender and early neo-conservative author Irving Kristol. It celebrated its greatest years in terms of readership and influence under Melvin J. Lasky, who succeeded Kristol in 1958 and who would serve as the main editor until the magazine closed its doors in 1990. In 1966-1967 it was revealed that the C.I.A. had subsidized the magazine for more than ten years through the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and that Melvin Lasky, Kermode's co-editor, was the CIA agent. Spender also resigned from Encounter in 1967, following the events of the scandal.

Best known of his writings are his studies of Shakespeare and D. H. Lawrence (1973), his edition of The Oxford Anthology of English Literature (2 vols., 1973), the popular Fontana Modern Masters series, and his provocative studies The Sense of an Ending (1967), The Genesis of Secrecy (1979), and The Art of Telling (1983). Kermode's memoir, Not Entitled was published in 1995 and his selection of essays, Pieces of My Mind, in 2003. Kermode served in the Royal Navy during World War II, for a total of six years, much of it in Iceland. He was knighted in 1991. Kermode died on August 17, 2010, aged 90, in Cambridge, England.

Source: From the finding aid for C1149

  • Sir Frank Kermode Papers. 1940-2010 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1149

    The collection represents the entire extant archive of Sir Frank Kermode, a distinguished British literary critic, and includes writings (reviews, essays, lectures, radio broadcasts), correspondence, photographs, and printed material, as well as material relating to public controversy about the funding for Encounter, which Kermode co-edited.