Born on 13 October 1928 in Warsaw; daughter of the administrative clerk Wacław Witkowski, and Janina née Fajfer. In 1935, she and her family moved to Świder, near Warsaw, where she started her schooling at the local primary school. She remained in Świder during the German occupation, continuing her education in secret secondary school classes from 1943. After the war, she attended the Municipal Secondary and Grammar School in Otwock. She was a member of the Youth Organization of the Workers' University Society (OM-TUR) from 1947. After completing advanced secondary education in 1948, she started a degree in Polish philology at the University of Warsaw (UW), graduating with a master's degree in 1953. In 1948, she joined the Union of Polish Youth (ZMP). During her studies, she worked in 1949/50 as a librarian at the State Publishing Institute (PIW) in Warsaw. She made her debut in 1950 with a review of Jan Neruda's book Opowiadania ze starej Pragi (Tales from old Praga). Her review, titled Pieśń o rynku i zaułkach (An ode to a market and hidden alleys), appeared in the weekly "Wieś" (no. 28). She continued to publish articles and literary reviews in this periodical until 1953. Between 1950 and 1952, she was a junior assistant at the Chair of Polish Philology at UW. In 1952, she was appointed to a post at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IBL PAN), initially as an assistant and then from 1954 as a senior assistant. She was appointed lecturer there in 1956. She joined the ruling Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) in 1952. She published literary pieces and research in the form of articles and sketches in "Życie Literackie" (1954-55, 1958-59, and 1962) and "Pamiętnik Literacki" (intermittently 1954-77). She travelled to Vilnius on a scholarship in 1956, conducting archival research on the nineteenth-century trials of the Filaret and Philomath groups. She received a doctorate from IBL in 1963 for her thesis Światopogląd filomatów wileńskich w latach 1817-1823 (The worldview of the Vilnius Philomath group, 1817-1823), which was supervised by Prof. Stefan Żółkiewski. She continued to study the Romantic era, receiving, for example, a grant to travel to the German Democratic Republic in 1967. He reviews and articles appeared in periodicals including "Nowe Książki" (1961-67, 1985-86, and 1988) and "Biuletyn Polonistyczny" (intermittently 1962-84). She was awarded a habilitation degree from IBL in 1970 for her study Słowiańskość, sielskość, rolniczość. Problemy ideologiczne estetyki polskiej lat 1800-1830 (Slavicness, rurality and agricultural lifestyles: Ideological issues in Polish aesthetics, 1800-1830). She was appointed senior lecturer at IBL in 1971, becoming a member of the Scientific Council of IBL the same year. She also spent several months in France on a research scholarship that year. In 1972, she joined the Polish Writers' Union (ZLP), remaining a member until its dissolution in 1983. Between 1973 and 1987, she was director of Doctoral Studies at IBL. She collaborated with the literary yearbook "Rocznik Literacki", developing the Romanticism (Romantyzm) section between 1973 and 1979. She contributed entries to the Słownik literatury polskiego Oświecenia (Dictionary of Polish Enlightenment Literature; 1977) and Słownik literatury polskiej XIX wieku (Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Polish Literature; 1991). Furthermore, her articles and literary reviews appeared in the bimonthly "Teksty" (1979-81). She was nominated an associate professor in 1979 and was appointed to such a post at IBL in 1981. From November 1980, she was a member of the IBL PAN Circle of the Independent Self-governing Trade Union Solidarity. She served in several leadership positions at IBL PAN: deputy research director (1982-83), acting director (November 1983 – October 1984), deputy research director (1984-88), and director (1988-92). In 1985, she received a further research grant to travel to France. She joined the Polish Writers' Association (SPP) in 1989. She was made full professor in 1990. In 1992, she joined the Polish PEN Club. She was director of Department of Romantic Literature at IBL from 1992. Between 1993 and 1995, she served on the Polish Academy of Sciences' Committee on Polish Literary Studies (KNoL). She joined the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (PAU) and the Warsaw Learned Society in 1994, while in 1998 she was made a corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN). After retiring in 1998, she remained active as a researcher at IBL, continuing a head of the Department of Romantic Literature. In 2005, she was chair of the organizing committee of the commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the death of Adam Mickiewicz. She received the Gold Cross of Merit in 1979, and the Knights' Cross in 1986 followed by the Commander's Cross in 2005 of the Order of Polonia Restituta. She died on 21 April 2011 in Warsaw. She is buried at the municipal cemetery in Otwock.
1. Filomatyzm Mickiewicza. Warszawa 1955, 65 + 25 s., powielone. Materiały Dyskusyjne Komisji Naukowej Obchodu Roku Mickiewicza. Polska Akademia Nauk Sekcja Historii Literatury i Języka.
2. Rówieśnicy Mickiewicza. Życiorys jednego pokolenia. [Monografia]. Warszawa: Wiedza Powszechna 1962, 325 s. Wyd. 2 Warszawa: Rytm 1998.
3. Kazimierz Brodziński. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy 1968, 361 s.
4. Rolniczość i sielskość. Studia z zakresu ideologii i estetyki polskiej lat 1800-1830. Powst. 1970. 183 s., maszynopis.
5. Sławianie, my lubim sielanki... [Szkice literackie]. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy 1972, 190 s.
6. Mickiewicz. Słowo i czyn. [Monografia]. Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe 1975, 365 s. Wyd. nast. tamże: wyd. 2 zmienione 1983, wyd. 3 1986, wyd. 4 zmienione 1998.
7. Wielcy romantycy polscy. Sylwetki. Mickiewicz, Słowacki, Krasiński, Norwid. Warszawa: Wiedza Powszechna 1980, 288 s.
8. Literatura romantyzmu. Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe 1986, 367 s. Instytut Badań Literackich Polskiej Akademii Nauk. Dzieje Literatury Polskiej. Synteza Uniwersytecka. Wyd. nast. tamże: wyd. 2 1987, wyd. 3 1989, wyd. 4 zmienione 2003, 429 s.
9. Wielkie stulecie Polaków. [Szkice literackie]. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy 1987, 220 s.
10. Towiańczycy. [Studium]. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy 1989, 250 s.
11. „Pan Tadeusz” Adama Mickiewicza. [Szkic]. Warszawa: Patria 1996, 35 s. Wyd. nast. tamże 1999.
12. Romantyzm. [Monografia]. [Autorzy:] A. Witkowska, R. Przybylski. Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe 1996, 743 s. Wyd. nast. tamże: wyd. 2 1997, wyd. 3 1997, wyd. 4 1998, wyd. 5 1999, wyd. 6 2000, wyd. 7 2001, wyd. 8 2002, wyd. 9 2007, wyd. 10 2009.
13. Cześć i skandale. O emigracyjnym doświadczeniu Polaków. [Studium]. Gdańsk: słowo/obraz terytoria 1997, 212 s.
14. Celina i Adam Mickiewiczowie. [Studium]. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie 1998, 158 s.
15. Mickiewicz. Encyklopedia. [Współautorzy:] J.M. Rymkiewicz, D. Siwicka, M. Zielińska. Warszawa: Grupa Wydawnicza Bertelsmann Media, Horyzont 2001, 687 s.
Artykuły w czasopismach i książkach zbiorowych, m.in.
Prace edytorskie i redakcyjne
Analyses and reviews
• Questionnaire for IBL PAN 1975.
Autor o sobie
Słowniki i bibliografie
Sławianie, my lubim sielanki...
Mickiewicz. Słowo i czyn
Wielkie stulecie Polaków
Cześć i skandale
Celina i Adam Mickiewiczowie
Zob. też Autor o sobie.