Vincent Sherry installed as first Howard Nemerov Professor in the Humanities

Vincent Sherry, PhD, chair and professor of English in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, was installed as the first Howard Nemerov Professor in the Humanities in Arts & Sciences during a Jan. 24 ceremony in Ridgley Hall’s Holmes Lounge.

Vincent Sherry delivers his installation address in Holmes Lounge. (Credit: Mary Butkus)

The professorship was established by a grant from the Danforth Foundation to recognize distinguished faculty members in the humanities.

One of four the Danforth Foundation established in 1997, the professorship honors the late Howard Nemerov, a highly acclaimed poet and longtime member of the Department of English faculty.

Sherry delivered a talk, titled “‘By Degrees’: Howard Nemerov, Poetry, and the English Department,” in which he acknowledged the literary great for whom the professorship is named.

During Sherry’s talk, he announced that he was establishing a fund that will provide annual prizes, in Nemerov’s name, for poetry written by undergraduate and graduate students.

“I’d like the name of Howard Nemerov to be connected especially to the art he practiced,” said Sherry, who noted that he has been reading Nemerov works since he was an undergraduate.

“I want to make this personal gesture so as to claim his name as part of the permanent legacy in our department, which includes such an extraordinarily strong tradition of poetry, of poets,” Sherry said.

To read Sherry’s full speech, which includes two Nemerov poems, visit here.

In introducing Sherry, Barbara A. Schaal, PhD, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences, referred to Sherry as one of Washington University’s “premier” faculty members.

“The English department at Washington University is now among the acclaimed departments in the country and is recognized internationally as a place where literary studies and creative writing come together,” said Schaal, the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences.

“This is a legacy that Vince has worked hard to maintain and the department’s flourishing in both areas is due in no small part to his efforts,” she said.

Sherry joined WUSTL’s Department of English in 2007 after serving as the Distinguished Professor of English at Villanova University from 2005-07 and the Pierce Butler Professor of English at Tulane University from 2004-05. He had been a member of Villanova’s English faculty from 1980-2004.

He became chair of WUSTL’s English department in fall 2008.

Sherry teaches and writes about modernist literature in Britain, Ireland and America, focusing on poets such as T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound and novelists like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Other areas of interest include literature and fantasy and decadence.

His current projects include Dying Generation: Modernism, Decadence, and the Inspiration of Last Days. The book traces the relation between “high” modernism and the “decadence” of the writers and painters of the later Victorian Age, mapping out the main lines of continuity and change over the long turn of the 20th century.

His publications include The Uncommon Tongue: The Poetry and Criticism of Geoffrey Hill (Michigan 1987); Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, and Radical Modernism (Oxford 1993); James Joyce: Ulysses (Cambridge 1995 and reprinted in 1997 and 2000; second edition 2004); and The Great War and the Language of Modernism (Oxford 2003, reprinted in 2004 and 2006).

He edited the Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War (2005) and several volumes on post-World War II British and Irish poets for the Dictionary of Literary Biography (1984, 1985).

He is also editor of the Cambridge History of Modernism, a volume that will include about 45 chapters and will extend to nearly a thousand pages.

In these works, and throughout his career, Sherry has focused on bringing a historically informed understanding to the modernist project.

A Phi Beta Kappa, Sherry earned a bachelor of arts degree, magna cum laude, in 1970 from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in 1974 and PhD in 1979, both in English language and literature, from the University of Toronto, where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

About Howard Nemerov

The Howard Nemerov Professorship in the Humanities was one of four professorships established in 1997 by a grant from the Danforth Foundation to recognize distinguished faculty members in the humanities as well as to support that area of study.

The Danforth Foundation was one of the largest private, independent foundations in the St. Louis region. It closed its doors in 2011 after 84 years of operation and more than $1 billion in grants distributed. The foundation was a major benefactor of Washington University.


Nemerov is widely regarded as one of the great American writers of the mid-20th century. Known primarily for his many poems, he also distinguished himself as a writer of short stories, novels, essays and a notable body of criticism.

Nemerov was a professor of English and distinguished poet in residence at Washington University from 1969 until his death in 1991.

He served as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress in 1963 and 1964, as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and as poet laureate of the United States from 1988 to 1990.

Nemerov received numerous literary awards and prizes, including the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov and the National Medal for the Arts in Poetry.