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Her first book, Milton's Brief Epic: The Genre, Meaning and Art of Paradise Regained, has been praised as a "trail-blazing" work that marshals "great learning in the service of understanding a specific artefact, without swamping the artefact."
From 1983-2010 she was the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English Literature and of History and Literature at Harvard University. From 1956-82 she taught at Brown University, holding the positions of Alumni-Alumnae University Professor from 1976-82, Director of Graduate Studies in English from 1968-72 and Chair of the Renaissance Studies Program from 1976-80.
In 2016, the Renaissance Society of America awarded her the Paul Oskar Kristeller Lifetime Achievement Award for recognition of her decades of scholarship.
Lewalski died in Providence, Rhode Island at the age of 87. She had congestive heart failure and died of a heart attack on March 2, 2018.
Milton's Brief Epic (1966)
Donne's "Anniversaries" and the Poetry of Praise: The Creation of a Symbolic Mode (1973)
Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century English Lyric (1979)
Paradise Lost and the Rhetoric of Literary Forms (1985)
Writing Women in Jacobean England (1993)
(editor) The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght (1996)
The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography (2000)