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Cheryl Peck


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This Year



New book by UIS professor receives high praise

July 14, 2005

Barbara Burkhardt's book on William Maxwell is gathering high praise from critics.

SPRINGFIELD – A new book by a University of Illinois at Springfield faculty member has received excellent reviews in several major newspapers and other publications including the Chicago Tribune, which called the book “brilliant.” William Maxwell: A Literary Life, by Barbara Burkhardt, is the first major critical study of the renowned Illinois writer’s life and work.

Reviews of the literary biography, published in March by the University of Illinois Press, have also appeared in New York Newsday, which called the book “compelling, worthy, and respectful of the subject’s own writing,” and The Washington Post: “Burkhardt gives full and perceptive attention to Maxwell’s unique stature as a writer.”

A review in The London Times stated: “Especially [helpful] in its account of Maxwell’s literary origins: his sense of a Midwestern identity, and of the debt he owed to such women writers as Edith Wharton, Cather, and his own mentor, the now-forgotten Zona Gale.”

Calling Dr. Burkhardt’s prose “deeply layered, supple, and clear,” Chicago Tribune reviewer Bill Savage said, “Burkhardt explores Maxwell’s fiction as though opening a door to a new world, a world as wide as the prairie skies that define Maxwell’s imaginative universe, and she deftly integrates her analysis of Maxwell’s novels and stories with his life story.”

The book has also been praised by USA Today, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Foreword magazine, and the Illinois Times. A review will appear in the New York Times on July 17, according to Dr. Burkhardt.

Born in 1908 in Lincoln, Illinois, Maxwell was a beloved, longtime fiction editor at The New Yorker who worked closely with such legendary writers as John Updike, Vladimir Nabokov, Mary McCarthy, and John Cheever.  His own novels, They Came Like Swallows and the American Book Award-winner So Long, See You Tomorrow, have become so highly acclaimed that many now consider Maxwell to be one of the most important writers to come out of the Midwest in the twentieth century.

Burkhardt, an assistant professor of English at UIS, was a close acquaintance of Maxwell and conducted extensive interviews with him over a ten-year period before his death in July 2000 at age 91.

Burkhardt holds a Ph.D. in American literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree in English from UIS.  At UIS, she teaches graduate seminars on postmodern fiction, Mark Twain, and writers of The New Yorker, as well as courses on the American novel, Latino/Latina literature, Midwestern literature, and professional writing.

More information about her book may be found on Dr. Burkhardt’s website at www.aliterarylife.com.



    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs – 21 bachelor’s, 20 master’s, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.