Nina Baym, a scholar "who asked why so few women were represented in the American literary canon, then spent her career working to correct that imbalance," died June 15, the New York Times reported. She was 82. Baym taught English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for more than 40 years. In 1975, while writing a book about Nathaniel Hawthorne she began to wonder why 19th-century American literature was so male-dominated, noting that even Hawthorne himself had complained in 1855 that "a damned mob of scribbling women" was cutting into his sales.
"I wanted to know where these women were," she said in a 1987 Times interview.
Baym's 1978 book, Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and About Women in America, 1820-1870, was "a foundational work in the field of feminist literary history and criticism," the Times noted. Her other titles include Women Writers of the American West, 1832-1927; Feminism and American Literary History; Shape of Hawthorne's Career; and The Scarlet Letter: A Reading.
Baym also "had a chance to have a direct impact on the literature presented to students when she served as general editor of several editions of The Norton Anthology of American Literature," the Times wrote.
In response to the news of Baym's death, University of Illinois English professor Catherine Prendergast tweeted: "Very sad to hear of the passing of Nina Baym, a titan of American literature, who mentored me at many points during our time together at Illinois. Please read some American woman's literature in her memory."