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Cheryl Peck

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This Year



UIS faculty member is author of book about William Maxwell

March 2, 2005

SPRINGFIELD - A University of Illinois at Springfield faculty member is the author of the first major critical study of renowned Illinois writer William Maxwell’s life and work.  University of Illinois Press has announced the publication of William Maxwell: A Literary Life by Barbara Burkhardt, an assistant professor of English at UIS.

Barbara Burkhardt

Dr. Burkhardt 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.  They visited regularly at his homes in New York City and Westchester County, New York.

Dr. Burkhardt’s book addresses Maxwell’s highly autobiographical fiction by inter-weaving a portrait of the author with her own critical interpretations.  She contextualizes his novels and short stories in terms of events including his mother’s early death from influenza, his marriage, and the role of his psychoanalysis under the guidance of Theodore Reik.    

Burkhardt's book is the first major critical study of Illinois author/editor William Maxwell.

Born August 16, 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.

As a result of their association, Maxwell entrusted Burkhardt with organizing his voluminous archive of literary correspondence with such writers as Eudora Welty, J.D. Salinger, Updike, Nabokov, Cheever, and McCarthy.  The archive is located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Maxwell’s alma mater.

In recognition of her scholarship, Burkhardt received the Robert Hacke Scholar-Teacher Award of the College English Association and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Lincoln College, where she also delivered the Ralph Newman Memorial lecture in 2000.  She also received the Writer of the Year Award in the nonfiction category from Lincoln Library in Springfield for her manuscript William Maxwell: A Literary Life.

Her reviews and articles have appeared in publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, Illinois Issues, and MidAmerica, and she has presented papers and delivered lectures on Maxwell, Nabokov, Welty, and Langston Hughes at the Modern Language Association annual conventions and other academic conferences and symposia around the country.

Burkhardt holds a Ph.D. in American literature from UIUC 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.



    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.