Helen Vendler, critic and scholar of English-language poetry from the seventeenth century to the present, is A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University–the first woman to hold a University Professorship, the highest academic distinction Harvard bestows. In 2004 the National Endowment for the Humanities named her the Jefferson Lecturer, the highest academic distinction conferred by the Federal Government. She was poetry critic of The New Yorker from 1978-1990, and was a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board from 1990-1999, often serving before those years on Pulitzer Prize juries for poetry. She has written scholarly studies of William Shakespeare, Seamus Heaney, and Emily Dickinson, and has received the National Book Critics' Circle Award for Criticism in 1981, as well as the Truman Capote Prize and the Lowell Prize of the MLA. Her criticism has been collected in several volumes, including Part of Nature, Part of Us; The Music of What Happens; and Soul Says. Her 2007 Mellon Lectures have been published under the title Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Bishop, Merrill.