Lee was educated at Oxford and began her academic career as a lecturer in Williamsburg, Virginia, and at Liverpool University. She taught at the University of York from 1977, where over twenty years she was Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Professor of English Literature. She was appointed in 1998 to the Goldsmiths’ Chair of English Literature and Fellow of New College at the University of Oxford.In 2003 she was made a Commander of the British Empire for Services to Literature.
From 1982 to 1986 she presented a book programme, Book Four, on British Television’s Channel Four. Her publications include a study of the novels of Virginia Woolf, a critical appreciation of the work of Elizabeth Bowen, a book on Philip Roth, a literary biography of Willa Cather, and many editions and introductions, of Bowen, Stevie Smith, Welty, Kipling, Wharton, Trollope, Woolf, Penelope Fitzgerald and others.
Photo by Jane Bown