Lifecycles | Obituaries

Obituary: Annette Kolodny

Annette Kolodny, Ph.D., 78, died Sept. 11, 2019.

Dr. Kolodny was an internationally recognized scholar in interdisciplinary American studies and a pioneer of women’s studies and feminist literary criticism. Born in New York City, Dr. Kolodny attended Brooklyn College, graduating in 1962 magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and with honors in English. She was an associate to the editor of the international editions of Newsweek magazine. Receiving her Ph.D. in English and American literature from the University of California at Berkeley in 1969, she held faculty positions at Yale University, the University of British Columbia, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Maryland, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She was instrumental in establishing the first women’s studies programs and courses at three of those institutions. At the University of Arizona, she was dean of the College of Humanities 1988-1993, then a College of Humanities professor of American literature and culture, retiring in 2007 as professor emerita.

Dr. Kolodny lectured at conferences and universities around the world, and her many articles and books were translated into dozens of languages. One of her best-known essays on feminist critical theory is the award-winning “Dancing Through the Minefield: Some Observations on the Theory, Practice, and Politics of A Feminist Literary Criticism,” which won the Modern Languages Association’s Florence Howe Award.

She established the field of feminist eco-criticism with her first two books, “The Lay of the Land” (1975) and “The Land Before Her” (1984). She wrote about her experiences as an activist feminist dean in “Failing the Future: A Dean Looks at Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century” (1998). She published widely in the field of Native American studies and, in 2007, brought back into print Joseph Nicolar’s “The Life and Traditions of the Red Man,” first printed in Maine in 1893. Her prize-winning contribution to transnational studies in 2012 was “In Search of First Contact: The Vikings of Vinland, the Peoples of the Dawnland, and the Anglo-American Anxiety of Discovery,” merging Vinland sagas with Native American stories of first contact with Europeans.

In her last years, she worked on a personal and professional memoir, tentatively titled “Dancing Through the Minefield,” which highlights her experiences as a feminist in academia and dealing with physical disability and chronic pain. She reveals details behind her 1975-1980 suit against the University of New Hampshire for sex discrimination and anti-Semitism, which set legal precedence for Title VII cases.

Her achievements included numerous fellowships, awards, and prizes, and an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the University of New Brunswick in Canada in 2000. In 1993 she was elected to lifetime membership in the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

Dr. Kolodny is survived by her husband, novelist Daniel Peters of Tucson. A memorial service was scheduled for Sept. 26 in the chapel of Evergreen Mortuary and Cemetery, with Rabbi Batsheva Appel of Temple Emanu-El scheduled to officiate.

Memorial contributions may be made the Arthritis Foundation, the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, or the National Abortion Rights Action League.