An expert on the literature of the English Renaissance, as well as the relation between England and France, Anne Lake Prescott, PhD, met with a famous British historian early in her career, who advised her to study the relationship between England and France during the Renaissance. She really liked that period, and saw a movie called “The Young Elizabeth.” She thought people looked great in the old clothing, so she wanted to learn more about the time. Dr. Prescott got involved partly because she was interested in questions such as “What did the English think of the French?” She was intrigued by the social and intellectual effects of thinking about what we now call “the other.” To the English, the French were “the other.” She also loved how much the English read during that time. She lived in France for a year after she got married, and she loved the language so much that it seemed like the proper thing to study.
Now working on a part-time basis, Dr. Prescott serves as an English language educator at Barnard College in New York since 2012. She began her tenure at the college as an English instructor in 1961, remaining in this role for six years before moving up the ranks to various other roles including assistant professor from 1967 to 1973, associate professor from 1973 to 1980, chairman of the English department from 1988 to 1992 and full professor from 1980 to 2012. During this time, Dr. Prescott was also the co-editor of the Spenser Studies: A Renaissance Poetry Annual until 2015.
Prior to the start of her professional career, Dr. Prescott pursued a formal education at Barnard College, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1959. She then attended Columbia University in New York, where she attained a Master of Arts in 1961 and a PhD in 1967. Her professor liked the papers she wrote, but didn’t like her spelling because she is dyslexic. This led her to become his grader the next year, in which post she would go over the papers and grade them. He then talked to the Victorian guide at the college, asking if she could grade his papers as well. In addition to these academic honors, Dr. Prescott also studied at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the University of Paris.
A specialist in the English Renaissance, Dr. Prescott is affiliated with the comparative literature program and the medieval and Renaissance studies program at Barnard College. She is currently working on David in the Renaissance and on Renaissance almanacs and calendars. Additionally, she is the co-editor of two Ashgate series of editions of early modern texts by modern women. For some years a trustee of the Renaissance Society of America and, at one point, president of the International Spenser Society, Dr. Prescott is currently president of the 16th-Century Society since 2010, among other memberships. She also serves on the editorial boards for SEL, American Notes and Queries, the John Donne Journal, the Sidney Journal, Renaissance Studies and Moreana.
The highlight of Dr. Prescott’s career was when she was the main speaker at the Renaissance Society of America’s annual conference. She was very nervous because she was speaking in front of hundreds of distinguished professors, but the audience was patient and supportive. Dr. Prescott now shares an office with novelist Mary Gordon, who was once one of her students. Ms. Gordon told her then how wonderful she was and she still is. She also taught Pulitzer Prize winner, Jhumpa Lahiri, as a graduate student. In the next five years, she is considering putting together a collection of her essays.
Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Prescott is the author of two books, “French Poets and the English Renaissance” in 1978 and “Imagining Rabelais in the English Renaissance” in 1998, as well as a contributor of myriad articles to professional journals. Dr. Prescott’s achievements have led her to receive the Colin Clout Award from the Spenser Society in 2007 and the coveted Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award.