Affiliate Spotlight: Anne M. O'Donnell

“A Traveling Scholar”

By Anne M. O’Donnell, S.N.D. de Namur

I was born and raised in Baltimore MD, a city characterized by ethnic neighborhoods and houses of worship. After high school I entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, a religious order noted for challenging and kindly teachers. Next I attended Trinity College, Washington D.C., founded by my order (B.A., 1962). My undergraduate Shakespeare teacher, Mrs. Nancy Brown, nominated me for a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, which enabled me to attend Stanford (M.A., 1963).

After teaching in a Catholic high school near Philadelphia and at Trinity D.C. for two years each, I was admitted to Yale (Ph.D., 1972). There I discovered a community of scholars dedicated to editing the English and Latin works of Thomas More. While More’s Confutation of Tyndale was in the press, the editor-in-chief, Professor Richard Sylvester, encouraged his graduate students to edit texts of the English reformer for their dissertations. Instead, I edited an anonymous translation of Erasmus’ Enchiridion, thought to be William Tyndale’s. Thanks to a fellowship from the American Association of University Women, I spent my dissertation year in Oxford.

For thirty-four happy years (1973-2007), I taught English literature at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. I especially enjoyed teaching undergraduates: Shakespeare, a writing course on lyric, drama and narrative, and literature by women in successive decades. My favorite graduate course was “Thomas More and His Circle,” which included Erasmus and John Fisher, Luther and Tyndale.

After my revised dissertation was accepted for publication by the Early English Text Society, I was promoted to Associate Professor (1979). Then I began a long period editing Tyndale’s Answer to More, co-edited with Jared Wicks, S.J. I enjoyed one sabbatical at Duke University (1980-81) and another at the University of Toronto (1988-89). After Answer to More was published by the Catholic University of America Press (2000), I was promoted to Full Professor (2001).

In 2008 I moved from small communities of Sisters back to the convent at Trinity, now a university. I found I had the energy, not for another edition of Tyndale, but for short essays. When the Sisters had to move out of Trinity, many for health reasons, I found an opportunity for my last sabbatical at the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (2016-17).

Here I am preparing several conference papers for publication. My revised essay on the translation of Erasmus’ commentary on the Lord’s Prayer by Thomas More’s daughter will be published in Margaret Roper in the Republic of Letters, eds. William F. Gentrup and Elizabeth N. McCutcheon. Tempe, AZ: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, forthcoming. My energy is being renewed by attending the many lectures sponsored by ACMRS and by living with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who have served in Arizona since 1950.


Image [1] Azaleas, Baltimore MD, April 2006
Image [2] Anne O'Donnell & Elizabeth McCutcheon on the walls of York, July 2011