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American Literature After 1900

Penn State is the historic home of American literature in higher education; in the early twentieth century, Fred Lewis Pattee became the first English professor in the country to teach classes exclusively devoted to US literary works. The Americanist faculty at Penn State aim to be similarly ground-breaking.

Recent Grad Courses

  • Expatriate Modernisms
  • American Modernism and the “New Woman”
  • American Modernism, American Primitivism
  • The Texts of Modernist American Poetry
  • Modernist Little Magazines
  • Kay Boyle and Ernest Hemingway, Modernist Duet
  • The American Literary Memoir
  • Satire and the New Black Aesthetic in Contemporary African American Literature
  • Black Cosmopolitanism: Ellison and Johnson
  • Contemporary Fiction

Center for American Literary Studies

The Penn State Center for American Literary Studies, dedicated to supporting the study, teaching, and reading of American literatures, is quickly becoming a leading national center; it offers exceptional research and fellowship opportunities for faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students. CALS sponsored and hosted the inaugural conference of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, for example. Visit the CALS website at

People specializing in this area

Tenure-Line Faculty

Kevin Bell

New York University, Ph.D, Comparative Literature 2000

Trans-Atlantic literary modernisms; Black American literature, film and music; critical theory; experimental traditions in film.

Author of Ashes Taken for Fire: Aesthetic Modernism and the Critique of Identity (University of Minnesota Press, 2007). He is working now on an interpretive study entitled Drift Velocities: the Aesthetic Curve of Radical Black Film and Literature.

Richard Matthew Doyle

Burroughs! Philip K. Dick! These writers form a dyad with which one can inquire into the cultural conditions of the emergence of information technologies and their influences on planetary culture and their ecosystems, including consciousness. Burroughs' "Language is a virus from outer space" predates scientist Richard Dawkins' concept of the "meme", and brings the non conscious agenda of information technologies to the fore. Dick's first person encounter with being "nailed by information" in 1974 was the subject of his massive text, The Exegesis, which I helped compile into a redacted print volume with PSU undergraduates and Editors Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem. I had the chutzpah to write (an admittedly shortened) Afterword. "Stairway to Eleusis", to the lengthy text that you can find online. The entire digital form of the Exegesis, with some lacunae, can be found at Check it out!

Aldon Lynn Nielsen

Particularly poetry and poetics, the history of American verse, contemporary literature, literature and the other arts

Benjamin Schreier

Post-1900 American literature and culture; Jewish American literature and culture; Ethnic literature; Intellectuals and culture; Narrative nonfiction; Literary history

Linda Furgerson Selzer, Ph.D.

19th century literature, contemporary literature

Matt Tierney

Experimental and political writing, racial figuration, genre studies, film as text, literature and technology, anarchist fiction