Ever since her 1960s graduate student days at the University of California, Berkeley, Annette Kolodny has combined political activism in the Civil Rights, women’s, and environmental movements with a scholarly scrutiny of American culture and its discontents. Her first two books are considered landmarks in the fields of ecocriticism and frontier studies; each examines the developing mythology of the western frontiers. The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975; rpt. 1984) concerns itself with Euroamerican male fantasy projections onto the successive “virgin” wildernesses. The Land Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630-1860 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984) offers the first comprehensive study of white women's responses to the pioneering experience, analyzing not only personal documents like letters and diaries but published novels, poetry, and promotional tracts, as well. Dr. Kolodny’s essay “Dancing Through the Minefield: Some Observations on the Theory, Practice, and Politics of a Feminist Literary Criticism” was awarded the Florence Howe Prize for Feminist Criticism in 1979 and has since been translated and reprinted worldwide, becoming the most anthologized essay in the field. Throughout her career, she has continued to publish actively in the fields of feminist literary criticism and critical theory, ecocriticism, frontier studies, and early American literature and culture.
During her long career, Dr. Kolodny has held faculty positions at Yale University, the University of British Columbia, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Maryland, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Arizona.
From 1988 through 1993, Dr. Kolodny took on the challenges of academic administration by becoming Dean of the College of Humanities at the University of Arizona. As a result of her experience in administration, Dr. Kolodny now also writes about higher education issues and, as a consultant, works with schools across the country and around the world to effect positive change on campus. In 1998, Duke University Press published Failing the Future: A Dean Looks at Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century, Dr. Kolodny’s study of higher education public policy issues.
Her books and essays have garnered numerous awards both in the United States and abroad, and she is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and others. In 1998, she was the first woman to be named an Honored Scholar by the Division on Early American Literature in the Modern Language Association (MLA). In October 2002, she received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western Literature Association. At its annual meeting in December 2002, the American Literature Section of the MLA awarded Dr. Kolodny the prestigious Jay B. Hubbell Medal for outstanding lifetime scholarly achievement in American literary and cultural studies. In October 2006 the Society of Early Americanists honored Dr. Kolodny for “Excellence in Teaching” based on her “important contributions to the lives and careers” of her many students over the years. Several national prizes in ecocriticism and feminist studies have recently been named for her; and her work has been the subject of many conferences and conference sessions here and abroad.
At the University of Arizona, where she held the title of College of Humanities Professor of American Literature and Culture, in 2001 the Graduate and Professional Student Council named her “Outstanding Faculty Mentor of Graduate Students.” In 2002 she received the “Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Award with Sustained Contributions to Mentoring” from the College of Humanities.
Her current research on Native American stories about first contacts with Europeans uncovered a lost masterpiece of nineteenth-century Native American literature. The work was reprinted by Duke University Press in 2007, under the title Joseph Nicolar’s The Life and Traditions of the Red Man, edited, annotated, with a history of the Penobscot Nation and an introduction by Annette Kolodny.
On June 30, 2007, Dr. Kolodny retired from the University of Arizona, becoming Professor Emerita. Despite this retirement, Dr. Kolodny continues her active schedule of conference appearances and guest lectures at universities in the United States and around the world. Her most recent publications concentrate on the fields of Native American Studies and ecocriticism. She is now completing a book entitled In Search of First Contact: The Peoples of the Dawnland, the Vikings of Vinland, and American Popular Culture, to be published by Duke University Press.