Elizabeth Hardwick was a novelist, essayist, and outstanding literary critic and editor. Born in Kentucky in 1917, she studied at the University of Kentucky and Columbia University. She taught at Barnard College, Columbia University from 1965 until 1985. She began her career as a novelist and short story writer, publishing “The Ghostly Lover” which was written at her home in Kentucky in 1945. She also wrote a book containing essays about women writers called Seduction and Betrayal: Women in Literature (1975). Her work was concerned with the question of female creativity and women’s lives explored from a literary angle. As one of the founders of the New York Review of Books in the 1960s, she maintained the position of advisory editor for a long period. She was invited to sit on numerous literary committees and juries, including the advisory committee for the National Book Awards and the nominating jury for the 1974 Pulitzer Prize in fiction. She received awards from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations. She died in 2007.

Hardwick’s lecture was a part of the series “Human Dignity and the Experience of Women,” which marked the beginning of International Women’s Year and included a small film festival. In her lecture, Hardwick considered the emotional life of women writers, including the Bronte sisters, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, George Sand, Mary Wollstonecraft, George Eliot, and Margaret Fuller. She was principally concerned with exploring how the lives were connected with the “sudden assault of necessity,” and how they created the basis for making a living through their writing. In meeting their concrete financial needs, they created the space to develop personality and break personal restraints, questioning unnecessary domination and the laws of respectability. As professional writers, these women’s radicalism showed that the will that created the writing at the same time was creating a romantic female person who took and claimed certain rights. Romance, in the sense of deeply felt emotion, and control of one’s economic affairs, worked together, Hardwick concluded.

Hardwick’s lecture was held on January 14, 1975. Listen to it below.

Elizabeth Hardwick delivers her Dunning Trust lecture.
The poster for the series “Human Dignity and the Experience of Women.”