Karen Newman, Faculty


An assistant professor of Anthropology and the only woman in her department when she was hired in 1968, Louise Lamphere was denied tenure in 1974. The Anthropology Department claimed that her scholarship was theoretically weak. Lamphere claimed she was the victim of sex discrimination and argued that the small number of women on the Brown faculty was evidence of a larger pattern of discrimination. After unsuccessfully pursuing an internal appeals process, on May 10, 1975 Lamphere filed a lawsuit in United States District Court.

Under the leadership of a new President, Howard Swearer, the University settled the case before trial, entering in September 1977 into an historic consent decree designed “to achieve on behalf of women full representativeness with respect to faculty employment at Brown.” Brown agreed to set up an Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee charged with overseeing the processes departments used to hire, promote, and tenure faculty in order to ensure fairness; evaluating searches for inclusivity; and monitoring progress toward full representation of women on the faculty. The Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee was in existence from 1978 to 1992 when by mutual consent the consent decree was vacated.

Conducted in 2014 as part of the Pembroke Center’s Louise Lamphere vs. Brown University exhibit for Brown’s 250th anniversary, this interview captures the involvement of Karen Newman who joined Brown as the case was closing, as the only woman in the Contemporary Literature department. She discusses her work on the Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee that was established by the consent decree. Newman elaborates on the efforts made to vacate the consent decree as well as her role in establishing new hiring and tenure procedures after the decree was vacated.


Recorded on April 12, 2014 at Brown University, Providence, RI
Interviewed by Nancy L. Buc

Suggested Chicago style citation: Newman, Karen. Interview. By Nancy L. Buc. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. April 12, 2014.


Karen Newman is Owen Walker ’33 Professor of Humanities and Professor of Comparative Literature and English at Brown University. She received her B.A. from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in 1970, her M.A. from University of California, Berkeley in 1972, and her PhD. From University of California, Berkeley in 1978. She has written widely on early modern letters and culture and on Shakespeare and Renaissance drama. Recent books include Cultural Capitals: Early Modern London and Paris (Princeton, 2007, paperback, 2009) and Essaying Shakespeare (University of Minnesota Press, 2009). Her current research on Shakespeare and cultural translation aims to historicize contemporary claims about the globalization of culture.