Known for her writings on the lives and works of such prominent literary figures as Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, and Philip Roth, this British scholar taught English literature at several institutions of higher education and served as President of Oxford University's Wolfson College.
After completing undergraduate coursework at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, she earned a Master of Philosophy degree from St. Cross College, Oxford.
She wrote literary reviews for both The New York Review of Books and The Guardian and also hosted an English television program called Book Four.
She grew up in London, England, as the daughter of a doctor. She later married University of Leeds Professor John Barnard.
Her biography of American writer Willa Cather, entitled Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up, was published in 1989.