Susan Stanford Friedman

Position title: IRH Director (2007-2017)


Hilldale Professor in the Humanities and the Virginia Woolf Professor of English and Women's Studies Emerita, UW-Madison

portrait image of Susan Friedman seated at an event table laughing with her hand at her chin. She wears a brightly colored shirt and large earrings and has her glasses pushed up on her head.

Susan Stanford Friedman was the director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities from 2007-2017, an IRH senior fellow (1994-1999), and an IRH resident fellow (1986). As the IRH Director, she developed four Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellowships, oversaw the growth of the Institute’s fellow program from around 25 to over 50 fellows a year, and worked closely with the Center for the Humanities as an advocate for the humanities across the campus. She was a co-founder of the Women’s Studies Program in 1975 and served as the program’s associate chair (1975-1981, laying the foundation for the certificate, major, and master’s degrees. From 2001-2004, she chaired the English Department, and she continues as an affiliate faculty member emerita in the Middle East Studies Program and the Religious Studies Program.

Her work has always been interdisciplinary across the humanities, greatly enriched by the Institute, and incorporating modernist studies; feminist theory, gender, and women’s writing; narrative theory; migration/diaspora studies; world literature studies; postcolonial studies; religious studies; contemporary literature; archipelagic studies; and psychoanalysis. Her most recent books include Planetary Modernisms: Provocations on Modernity Across Time (Columbia University Press, 2015) and the edited volumes Contemporary Revolutions: Turning Back to the Future in 21st-Century Literature and Art (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2018) and Comparison: Theories, Approaches, Uses (with Rita Relski, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). Earlier books include Mappings: Feminism and the Cultural Geographies of Encounter (Princeton University Press, 1998), Penelope’s Web: Gender, Modernity, H.D.’s Fiction (Cambridge University Press, 1990), and Psyche Reborn: The Emergence of H.D. (Indiana University Press1981). Edited volumes include Analyzing Freud: Letters of H.D., Bryher and Their Circle (New Directions Press, 2001), Joyce: The Return of the Repressed (Cornell University Press, 1991) and Signets: Reading H.D.(with Rachel Blau DuPlessis, University of Wisconsin Press, 1992). She co-wrote her first book, A Woman’s Guide to Therapy, with undergraduates in Alice in Academe, an early UW women’s studies course (Prentice Hall, 1998).  She is the founding co-editor of the prize-winning journal, Contemporary Women’s Writing (Oxford University Press). She was awarded the Wayne C. Booth Award for Lifetime Achievement in Narrative Studies in 2009, and her work has been translated into Chinese, Czech, Danish, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Serbian, and Spanish.

She received her B.A. degree with a joint major in Greek and English at Swarthmore College in 1965 and her Ph.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1973. After teaching at Brooklyn College, she returned to Madison in 1975. As a committed teacher, she has received five teaching awards, directed 28 dissertations, served as a reader on 92 dissertation committees, and participated on 10 MFA committees in Art.

Since her retirement in 2018, she remains very active internationally in the profession and on campus. She continues to work with graduate students and to serve as mentor to Institute fellows, faculty, and scholars in the U.S. and abroad. She is currently at work on a book provisionally entitled Sisters of Scheherazade: Religion, Diaspora, and Muslim Women’s Writing.


cover of book "Contemporary revolutions..." with black out marker on top of text that has been redacted.Image of cover of book "Planetary Modernisms..." with diagonal white lines separating triangular blocks of color

Image of cover of book "Comparison..." with image of a blue and black composite image of paint and textCover of Book "Mappings: Feminism and Cultural Geographies of Encounter" in black, red, and dark mauveimage of book cover for "Penelope's Web" showing a blue-toned image of Giovanni Boccaccio illustration of a woman weaving