William Alfred
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William Alfred

William Alfred (August 16, 1922 - May 20, 1999) was an American playwright, poet, and professor of English literature at Harvard University.[1]


Alfred was born into an Irish family in Brooklyn, New York.[2] His father was a bricklayer and his mother was a telephone operator.[3] He graduated from St. Francis Preparatory School in 1940.[2]

Alfred was drafted in 1943, two years into his undergraduate studies at Brooklyn College.[2] He served in the Army tank corps and quartermaster's corps[3] in World War II for four years.[4] While in the army, he was taught Bulgarian at a language school and then stationed in the South Pacific, where he wrote poems for American Poet.[2] Alfred completed his B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1948 with the help of the G.I. Bill.[4][2]

Alfred is a double graduate of Harvard University, where he specialized in the literature of Medieval England, receiving his A.M. and Ph.D. in English in 1949 and 1954 respectively.[5][4] While at Harvard, Alfred took a creative writing course under Archibald MacLeish, where he wrote his play, Agamemnon.[6]

He began teaching at Harvard the same year he received his doctorate and was appointed full professor in 1963.[4] In 1980, he was named Abbott Lawrence Lowell Professor of the Humanities.[4]

He retired in 1991.[3]

Personal life

Alfred was a lifelong Catholic and attended mass at nearby Saint Paul's Church.[4]

His great grandmother, Anna Maria Egan, immigrated to the United States.[6]

Alfred's play Hogan's Goat helped launch Faye Dunaway's career in the 60's.[7] They maintained a close relationship and remained lifelong friends.[7]

Alfred was close friends with fellow poets Elizabeth Bishop[8] and Robert Lowell.[1]


Other works

  • The Annunciation Rosary (poetry)
  • Author of a translation of Beowulf[3]

Awards and recognition

  • 1993 Harvard Medal[5]
  • 1988 Signet Society Medal for Lifetime Achievement[4]
  • 1957 Phi Beta Kappa Poet of Harvard University[4]
  • 1954 Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholar[9]


  1. ^ a b "William Alfred | Manuscript Collections | City University of New York (CUNY)". academicworks.cuny.edu. Retrieved .
  2. ^ a b c d e Mcdonald, Gregory (2011-01-04). Souvenirs of a Blown World: Sketches for the Sixties, Writings about America, 1966-1973. Seven Stories Press. ISBN 978-1-58322-993-4.
  3. ^ a b c d e "'The Professor' William Alfred Dies at Age 76". 6 July 2008. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "William Alfred". Harvard Gazette. 2003-04-03. Retrieved .
  5. ^ a b "Past Recipients of the Harvard Medal" Harvard Alumni Association, 2019. Retrieved from https://alumni.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/page/files/Harvard%20Medal_Past%20Recipient%20List.pdf
  6. ^ a b Inc, Time (1966-04-22). LIFE. Time Inc.
  7. ^ a b "William Alfred | Samuel French". www.samuelfrench.com. Retrieved .
  8. ^ Millier, Brett C. (1992-03-15). Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It. University of California Press. p. 432. ISBN 978-0-520-91719-4. william alfred harvard.
  9. ^ "Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship- List of Past Recipients". www.amylowell.org. Retrieved .

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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