Barbara Herrnstein Smith is Braxton Craven Professor of Comparative Literature and English and former director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory at Duke University. She also holds the position of Distinguished Professor of English at Brown University.
After initially training in biology, experimental psychology, and philosophy at City College in New York, Smith attended Brandeis University, where she received her doctorate in English and American Literature. Before joining the faculty at Duke in 1987, she taught at Bennington College and at the University of Pennsylvania, where she held the position of University Professor. Her current teaching and research focus on twentieth century reconceptions of knowledge and science, contemporary accounts of language and cognition, the relations between the sciences and the humanities, and the naturalistic tradition in the study of religion.
Professor Smith has authored and edited a number of books and articles on language, literature, and critical theory, including Poetic Closure: A Study of How Poems End (1968), On the Margins of Discourse: The Relation of Literature to Language (1978), and Contingencies of Value: Alternative Perspectives for Critical Theory (1988). Her most recent books are Belief and Resistance: Dynamics of Contemporary Intellectual Controversy (1997) and Scandalous Knowledge: Science, Truth and the Human (2006).
She is a past president of the Modern Language Association and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2001, she was named an honorary fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science "for distinguished contributions to…a common scientific and humanistic understanding of knowledge and its advancement."