First Sarai Ribicoff Professor Named

Laura King has been named the Sarai Ribicoff Assistant Professor of English by vote of the Yale Corporation. She is the first incumbent of the chair, which honors the memory of the late Sarai K. Ribicoff, a member of the Class of 1979, who died a year after her graduation from Yale.

The chair was established by Mrs. Belle K. Ribicoff of Hartford, Connecticut, in memory of her daughter, and by other family members and friends of Sarai Ribicoff. The professorship is given to a member of the junior faculty in the humanities with preference to former recipients of the Sarai Ribicoff Award for the Encouragement of Teaching at Yale College.

King was honored with that teaching award during Commencement ceremonies in 1996. The Sarai Ribicoff Award for the Encouragement of Teaching is given annually to a junior faculty member in the humanities whose “instruction and character reflect the qualities of independence, innovation and originality that were exhibited in the life, thought and writings of Ms. Ribicoff.”

King – whose teaching and scholarly interests focus on medieval and early modern drama, Middle English poetry, and the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare – joined the Yale faculty in 1992 as an assistant professor. In addition to courses in medieval and early modern literature, she teaches expository writing and courses in the humanities and Renaissance studies. She was director of undergraduate studies in the humanities major 1993-95 and held the same position in the Renaissance studies major 1994-95. She currently serves as course director of Advanced Prose and is an English department representative in Trumbull College. She also has served as the Mellon Senior Forum coordinator in Branford College; as a faculty adviser to Calliope, the Branford College literary magazine; and as a faculty judge of the Wallace Prize Competition for the Yale Daily News.

King earned her B.A. degree from the University of Maryland, a M.A. degree from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. (1993) from the University of California, Berkeley. During her years as a graduate student, she received a number of honors, including the Kurtz Prize for Best Graduate Essay, the Maclay-Burt Comprehensive Review Award, an award as Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor, the Beatrice Bain Prize for Writing on Women and Gender, and Distinction in Qualifying Exams. She wrote her dissertation on the topic “Sacred Eroticism, Rapturous Anguish: Christianity’s Penitent Prostitutes and the Vexation of Allegory, 1370-1608.”

Since coming to Yale, King has also received a Morse Fellowship and the Poorvu Family Prize for Interdisciplinary Teaching. She is currently completing a book titled “Sorwful Ymagynacion: De Maria Magdalena and Chaucerian Empathy,” which examines Chaucer’s debt to a homily he claims to have translated early in his career. She also is working on a second book, a study of intoxication in late medieval and early modern culture, titled “Sermons from the Devil’s Pulpit.”

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