Linda LeavellLinda Leavell (pronounced level) received her early education in Nashville, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; and Waco, Texas. For two years she attended Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. She earned a BA in English and philosophy from Baylor University and a doctorate in English from Rice University. She began her academic career at Rhodes College and then taught American literature at Oklahoma State University for twenty-four years.

Reading William Carlos Williams’s Autobiography in high school, she learned about a community of poets, photographers, and painters who wanted to transform the arts in the early decades of the twentieth century. These artists, mostly associated with Alfred Stieglitz and his influential gallery on Fifth Avenue, raised important questions about the role of art and the artist in the modern world. Leavell wrote an undergraduate honors thesis about Williams and the visual arts and then wrote her PhD dissertation placing Marianne Moore’s poetry within the context of the Stieglitz group’s aesthetic. Research for the dissertation led to her first book, Marianne Moore and the Visual Arts: Prismatic Color (LSU Press, 1995). Leavell’s articles about Moore have appeared in various books and academic journals, including American Literary History, Twentieth Century Literature, and the Journal of Modern Literature.

After gaining the support of the Moore estate, Leavell worked for fourteen years researching and writing Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013). She received support for the project from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Oklahoma Humanities Council, the American Philosophical Society, and the Center for Humanities at Oregon State University.

Leavell retired from her academic career in 2010 and moved with her husband to Fayetteville, Arkansas. She served as president of Biographers International Organization from 2019 to 2023. Her current project, under contract with FSG, explores the group dynamics among three photographers and four painters associated with Alfred Stieglitz and his succession of galleries.

Photo by Lee Guthrie Photography


NBCC Biography Finalist
Linda Leavell in Conversation
with MFA Student Luke Wiget

Writing Out Loud: Linda Leavall
(original air date 1/20/14)
Linda Leavell visits about her critically acclaimed biography of poet Marianne Moore.