Professor Harris was admitted to the degree this week in a ceremony presided over by Pro-Chancellor Dorothy Hoddinott AO.
“I am delighted to confer Margaret Harris into the honorary Doctor of Letters degree,” Pro-Chancellor Hoddinott said. “Over her many years at the University, she has been an exemplary peer and mentor to her colleagues and has inspired a younger generation to discover early foundational writers and absorb themselves in the rich study of English literature.”
A University alumna, Professor Harris began her career in academia as a Teaching Fellow in the Department of English. Though she travelled to London to complete her doctorate degree, she returned to Sydney in 1969 to begin a Lectureship at the University, where she would soon become renowned for her enduring commitment to research excellence across the humanities and creative arts.
A distinguished expert in the field of Victorian and Australian literature, Professor Harris was quickly recognised for her academic excellence and appointed Professor of English Literature (Personal Chair) in 1994, before later becoming Challis Chair, and then Acting Dean of the Sydney College of the Arts (2000 – 2002, 2016 – 2017). With a particular interest in research and a dedication to supporting her colleagues in their own research endeavours, she shifted her focus from teaching in 2007 to run the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ research advisory group. In this role, she worked closely with her colleagues on grant applications, as well as with the University’s Research Portfolio.
In addition to her role as an esteemed mentor, Professor Harris’ own research contributed to rich new interpretations of the lives and works of notable authors such as George Eliot and George Meredith. The author of several publications, her work includes The Journals of George Eliot (with Judith Johnston), The Magic Phrase: Critical Essays on Christina Stead, Dearest Munx: The Letters of Christina Stead and William J. Blake, and George Eliot in Context.
Professor Harris’ influence on the University is widely acknowledged. For over 10 years she has held a role as a Fellow of the University Senate, for which she was nominated by her peers.
More recently, a portrait of Professor Harris by celebrated Melbourne artist Celeste Chandler has been hung in the University’s MacLaurin Hall, which is a befitting tribute to her enduring passion for research and teaching.