Gillian Beer

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Dame Gillian Beer
Personal details
Born (1935-01-27) 27 January 1935 (age 88)
Surrey, England
5th President of Clare Hall, Cambridge
In office
Preceded byAnthony Low
Succeeded byEkhard Salje

Dame Gillian Patricia Kempster Beer, DBE, FBA (née Thomas; born 27 January 1935) is a British literary critic and academic. She was President of Clare Hall from 1994 to 2001, and King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge from 1994 to 2002.

Early life[edit]

Born Gillian Patricia Kempster Thomas in Surrey, England,[1] Beer studied English Literature at St Anne's College, Oxford.

Academic career[edit]

Following teaching posts at Bedford College, London and the University of Liverpool, she was a fellow of Girton College, Cambridge, for 30 years. She was later King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge, and later president of Clare Hall, the University of Cambridge's distinctive, international postgraduate college.

She served as chair of the judges for the Booker Prize in 1997.

Her most intensive literary criticism lies in the field of Victorian studies. Darwin's Plots (1983), in particular, related the form of Victorian novels to Darwinist thinking. Its significance as a work was confirmed by the publication of a second edition by Cambridge University Press in 2000 and a third edition in 2009. She has also written important collections of essays on Virginia Woolf (The Common Ground, 1996) and on other aspects of the relations of literature, science, and other academic disciplines.[2]

Honours and awards[edit]


She married the literary critic John Beer in September 1962;[7] they have three sons.

Literary criticism[edit]

  • Meredith: A Change of Masks (1970)
  • Darwin's Plots (1983)
  • George Eliot (1986)
  • Arguing with the Past (1989)
  • Open Fields (1996)
  • Virginia Woolf: The Common Ground (1996)
  • Alice in Space: The Sideways Victorian World of Lewis Carroll (2016)


A full bibliography of Gillian Beer's work may be found in:


  1. ^ "Gillian P K Thomas". England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916-2005. Retrieved 29 May 2011. Name: Gillian P K Thomas; Mother's Maiden Surname: Burley; Date of Registration: Jan-Feb-Mar 1935; Registration district: Surrey Mid Eastern; Inferred County: Kent; Volume Number: 2a; Page Number: 405 (subscription required)
  2. ^ Claire Armitstead (18 March 2017). "Gillian Beer: 'I'm a historical remnant from the great days of free education'". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  3. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  4. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  5. ^ "Honorary Degrees". Harvard University. Archived from the original on 4 November 2017. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  6. ^ "Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism: Gillian Beer", University of Iowa, 19 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Gillian P K Thomas". England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1916-2005. Retrieved 29 May 2011. Name: Gillian P K Thomas; Spouse Surname: Beer; Date of Registration: Jul-Aug-Sep 1962; Registration district: Cambridge; Inferred County: Cambridgeshire; Volume Number: 4a; Page Number: 627(subscription required)


  • MacLeod, Donald. "Dame Gillian Beer", The Guardian (29 June 2004).

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Rose Mary Crawshay Prize
Christine Alexander
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by King Edward VII Professor of English Literature
University of Cambridge

1994 to 2002
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Clare Hall, Cambridge
Succeeded by