Virginia Tufte

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Virginia James Tufte (1918–2020)[1] was an author and distinguished emerita professor of English at the University of Southern California. Her special fields were Milton, Renaissance poetry, and the history and grammar of English. She held Ph.D and M.A. degrees in English literature from the University of California, Los Angeles, an M.A. from Arizona State University, and an A.B. from the University of Nebraska.[2][3]

She was born in Nebraska, and was married in Omaha in 1940 to Edward E. Tufte, who was city engineer and public works director of the city of Beverly Hills, California, for many years.[4] Their son was Edward Rolf Tufte, leader and author in the field of information design, and active as a sculptor.

Her most notable recent work is Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style (2006), successor to Grammar as Style (1971). Grammar as Style developed a cult of followers in the late twentieth century, several decades after it had gone out of print, prompting her to write the new book.[5][6][7]

Besides her work on syntax and style, Tufte was notable for books and essays in two other areas of literary study and for a video biography. Her book The Poetry of Marriage: The Epithalamium in Europe and its Development in England (1970), a comprehensive history of the English epithalamium, opened up an area of study for other scholars on a historical genre with centuries-old classical and Christian roots.[8] "Epithalamium" means "upon the wedding couch", and hundreds of such poems constitute a genre in many countries.[9]

The third area of recent work consists of many studies of artists as interpreters of John Milton’s poems.[10][11][12] Besides numerous essays and contributions to books in this field, some in collaboration with Wendy Furman-Adams of Whittier College,[13] she wrote and produced a one-hour video biography of a literary illustrator Reaching for Paradise: The Life and Art of Carlotta Petrina (1994) that has appeared on educational television stations, is archived in college and university libraries, and is in use in classrooms.[14]

Tufte’s interest in life and family histories is reflected also in two collaborative books with anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff, Changing Images of the Family (1981) and Remembered Lives: The Work of Ritual, Storytelling and Growing Older (1992).[15]


  • Virginia James Tufte (2013). Pieces: Embroidered by Memory. Illustrated by Anna Lackaff. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.
  • Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press. 2006. ISBN 0-9613921-8-5.
  • Reaching for Paradise: The Life and Art of Carlotta Petrina (video biography). Los Angeles. 1994.
  • Virginia Tufte; Barbara Meyerhoff, eds. (March 1981). Changing Images of the Family. Yale Univ Press. ISBN 0-300-02671-4.
  • Grammar as Style. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 1971. ISBN 0-03-079615-6.
  • Virginia Tufte; Garrett Stewart (1971). Grammar as Style: Exercises in Creativity. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0-03-085041-X.
  • Virginia Tufte, ed. (1970). High Wedlock Then Be Honoured. Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-37159-9.
  • The Poetry of Marriage: The Epithalamium in Europe and its Development in England. University of Southern California Studies in Comparative Literature. 1970. ISBN 0-87252-012-9.
  • Virginia Tufte; Joseph Aurbach; Philip H. Cook; Robert E. Kaplan (1968). Transformational Grammar: A Guide for Teachers. Washington Educational Research Associates.


  1. ^ Edward Tufte's tweet announcing the passing away of mother Virginia James Tufte, retrieved 2020-06-20
  2. ^ Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style, Graphics Press, retrieved 2010-02-08
  3. ^ USC Experts Directory, University of Southern California, retrieved 2010-02-08
  4. ^ American Society of Civil Engineers. "Tufte, Edward E.; ASCE Fellow". Retrieved 2010-02-10.
  5. ^ David Jauss (October–November 2003), "What We Talk About When We Talk About Flow", The Writer's Chronicle, 36 (2): 12–16
  6. ^ David Jauss (2008). Alone With All That Could Happen: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom about the Craft of Fiction. Writers Digest Books. pp. 68, 69. ISBN 978-1-58297-538-2.
  7. ^ Brooks Landon (2008). Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft. The Teaching Company. pp. 22, 86, 122, 132.
  8. ^ Heather Dubrow (1990). A Happier Eden: The Politics of Marriage in the Stuart Epithalamium. Cornell Univ Press. ISBN 0-8014-2296-5.
  9. ^ M. H. Abrams; Geoffrey Galt Harpham (2004). A Glossary of Literary Terms. Wadsworth Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 1-4130-0218-8.
  10. ^ Milton Studies. 35-37. 1997–1999. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ Milton Quarterly. 21, 35. 2001 [1987]. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Galbraith M. Crump, ed. (1986). "Visualizing Paradise Lost: Classroom Use of Illustrations by Medina, Blake, and Doré". Approaches to Teaching Milton's Paradise Lost. The Modern Language Association of America.
  13. ^ Whittier College. "Wendy Furman-Adams". Retrieved 2010-02-10.
  14. ^ Wendy Furman-Adams. "Reaching For Paradise: John Milton (1608-1674), Milton Illustration, and Carlotta Petrina (1901-1997)". Retrieved 2010-02-11.
  15. ^ Publishers Weekly: 66. May 11, 1992. Missing or empty |title= (help)