Victor Brombert takes the title of his new book from a sonnet written by William Wordsworth in 1807 in defense of the sonnet’s constricting form:
Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels.
For Brombert, the image represents “the singular world of universities,” including his first glimpse of Yale, where he enrolled as a veteran after World War II. Brombert earned his Ph.D. in Romance languages and literature in 1953 and joined the Yale faculty. In 1975 he went on to Princeton, remaining there until his retirement in 1999, and published a dozen or so books, most of them...