Janel Mulder Mueller (1938–2022), who was the William Rainey Harper Professor Emerita in the Department of English Language and Literature and the first woman to lead the Division of the Humanities (or any academic division) at UChicago, will be remembered for training generations of young scholars in and beyond English Renaissance studies, many of whom became leaders in their fields. Some of their reflections are collected below.

Laurie Shannon, AM’85, PhD’96, the Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English Literature at Northwestern University

“Janel Mueller’s keen intellect and knowledge of early modern contexts made even obscure texts electrifying for her students,” Shannon says. “She then brought a tireless editorial eye to student writing in ways that indelibly exposed how thought itself really works. I was a lucky beneficiary of her robust counsel across many years. From dispensing paragraph theory at the dissertation stage, to workshopping administrative puzzles when I chaired my department at Northwestern, to wryly glossing Queen of Hearts imagery in the lobby of the British Library, Janel’s keenness of mind remains indelible.”

Julie Carlson, AM’79, PhD’85, professor of English, University of California, Santa Barbara

“No one else ever has analyzed and evaluated my work so thoroughly and thoughtfully,” Carlson says. After Carlson published her second book, England’s First Family of Writers: Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Mary Shelley (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), she visited Mueller for a week at her townhouse in Chicago. Mueller wanted to discuss Carlson’s book and had placed markers in it, taking it “seriously but humanely. We had long, meaningful conversations about the arguments in the book.”

Gregory Kneidel, AM’94, PhD’98, professor of English, University of Connecticut

According to Kneidel, Mueller could be both rigorous and kind. “Janel returned an ink-stained draft of a dissertation chapter (a draft I thought was in good shape) with a note saying that I had a lot of things to work on while she was away in Paris for a few months,” he says. “Those were a stressful couple of months, and I was sort of dreading her return. But when Janel came back, she brought an adorable green-and-white Babar the Elephant striped onesie for my newly born son. Everything on the chapter worked out fine in the end.”

Paula McQuade, AM’91, PhD’98, professor of English and Catholic studies, DePaul University

McQuade recalls Mueller’s generosity as a mentor. “Fifteen years after receiving my PhD, I wrote a book on early modern women writers titled Catechisms and Women’s Writing in Seventeenth-Century England [Cambridge University Press, 2017]. Cambridge University Press tentatively accepted the manuscript, but the editor had some concerns about my transcriptions. I reached out to Janel, hoping perhaps that she could recommend some resources. Instead, Janel immediately offered to read the entire book. She did this during a snowy week in Chicago, while awaiting proofs of her own, final book titled John Donne [Oxford University Press, 2015].”

Micheline White, associate professor of English, Carleton University

White’s most indelible memory of her former professor and mentor Mueller occurred in 2012 when she received a gift copy of Mueller’s new edition of Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondence (University of Chicago Press, 2011). “I thought I would quickly peruse the volume and use it as a supplement for a unit that I teach on Queen Elizabeth I. In fact, Janel’s gift quickly and unexpectedly transformed the trajectory of my career. After reading some of the texts and pursuing a few of Janel’s intriguing footnotes, I found myself caught up in a series of projects that have become the center of my research program since 2013.

Note: This article was originally published online and in print with an incorrect, draft version of Laurie Shannon’s quotation. That quotation has been corrected, and further minor edits have been made to other quotations. We apologize for the error.

Photo Creds: 
Photography by Molly Winkelman, UChicago Photographic Archive, apf1-12688, Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University Of Chicago Library