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Carla J. Mulford

Carla J. Mulford

Professor of English and
Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
(814) 865-2082
213 Burrowes Building
Mailroom: 430 Burrowes Building

Mailroom: 430 Burrowes Building

Carla J. Mulford

Spring 2024 Office Hours

Sabbatical leave for academic year 2023-2024. Drop me a line - - if you'd like to arrange a meeting.

Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D. English, University of Delaware
M.A. English, University of Delaware
B.A./B.S. English and Education, highest honors, University of Delaware

Professional Bio

My research and teaching areas cross several fields: early modern studies; American (including African American and Native) studies before 1900; and contemporary Native studies. Across my career, I have published eleven books and well over sixty articles and chapters in books on a variety of subjects. I'm very grateful to have been named the 2018 Honored Scholar in Early American Literature by the MLA Forum in American Literature to 1800. My scholarship and my teaching enhance each other, as evidenced by my having been honored with two teaching awards, the Malvin and Lea P. Bank Outstanding Teaching Award, 2016, and the College of the Liberal Arts Teaching Award, 2005.

Research Interests

The British Empire remains the focus of my work, most recently from my perspective as a scholar of Benjamin Franklin. I'm now working in the history of science (electricity, particularly) and in understanding better the imperial situation in the Mediterranean arena. My monograph, Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire (Oxford University Press, 2015; paperback, 2019), examines Franklin's attitudes about trade and populations in the context of the growing number of debates about what it meant to be both liberal and British during the eighteenth century. The book's favorable reviews have amply rewarded the two decades I spent writing the book. My monograph in progress, Benjamin Franklin's Electrical Diplomacy, embraces my intersecting interests in the histories of science, politics, material culture, and print media. I have delivered talks related to this book at several locations, including the American Philosophical Society (Franklin's society), Library Company of Philadelphia (Franklin's library), the Joseph Priestley House in Northumberland, Pa., and conferences of the Organization of American Historians, the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, and the Pennsylvania Historical Association.

My scholarship on Franklin has benefited from fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, and the Library Company of Philadelphia. Most recently, I received an Alexander von Humboldt / Yale Macmillan Center History Network fellowship to assist my research toward a new book on Franklin and the Mediterranean.

Additional work on Franklin includes The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin (2009) and over twenty essays, chapters in books, and review essays on Franklin.

I won the 2012 Bibliographical Society of America's William L. Mitchell Prize, for scholarship in early British periodicals. The prize was awarded for my essay, "Benjamin Franklin's Savage Eloquence: Hoaxes from the Press at Passy, 1782," published in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 152, iv (Dec. 2008), 490-520.

Service to the Profession

I have served a number of professional societies, including the Society of Early Americanists (SEA), which I developed and eventually served as Founding President. I also served the American Literature to 1800 Division of the Modern Language Association. I am currently serving the Advisory Council of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, a group centered at the University of Pennsylvania. And I have served two double terms on the Council of the Pennsylvania Historical Association. The journal editorial boards I have served include American Literature, Early American Literature, Early American Studies, Eighteenth-Century Studies, and The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. I am a member of the American Antiquarian Society and a shareholder in the Library Company of Philadelphia.


Undergraduate teaching has enabled me to test my research and pedagogical capabilities in classes that range from the "great traditions" courses for freshmen to the senior seminar in English.  Areas I'm currently teaching embrace the range of my interests - Native studies, the British novel to Austen, the American novel to 1900, and early American literature. I like to challenge students to think about ethical matters as these relate to literature and culture. In addition to having served the department for four years as an English honors direction, I have supervisesd sixteen honors theses for the Schreyer Honors College.  Some of these students went on to graduate school, some entered the business world, some became teachers, one entered the Peace Corps, and another was awarded a Fulbright international scholarship.

My courses at the graduate level have introduced students to topics in conversation among scholars, and many students who take my classes go on to publish their essays in scholarly journals. Indeed, more than fifteen students from former seminars have published papers originally written in my classes.  But publication is only one goal of my pedagogy. My primary goal is that students develop mastery of the field by engaging collaboratively in their learning experiences.  My courses in the last several years have related to the British and American eighteenth-century novel, imperial enlightenments, early environmental writing, literacies in early American studies, and the history of science.


Areas of Specialization

American Literature Before 1900

Colonial studies through the nineteenth century, with specialties in early African American, Native American, and women's studies, in addition to scholarship associated with environmental studies, the history of science, the history of the book, and early modern liberalism. Dissertations directed in these fields include those by Cedrick May, Amy E. Winans, Steven Thomas, and Rochelle Zuck. More recently, Mark Sturges's thesis, Dwelling on the Land, explored environmental writings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and examined the twin concerns of environmental conservation and the formulation of land policies. And Mathew C. RudeWalker's thesis, Where Our Dead Lie Buried, examined Native discourse and activism over language and land appropriation.

Book History and Textual Studies

Winner of the 2012 William L. Mitchell prize awarded by the Bibliographical Society of America every other year for the best publication in British periodicals. Work in the field includes studies of manuscript culture and scribal publication along with studies of print media.  Dissertations directed in this area include those by Amy E. Winans and Steven Thomas.

Race and Ethnicity Studies

Early African American studies, Native American Studies, Asian American studies.  Dissertations directed in these fields include those by Mathew RudeWalker, Youngsuk Chae, Cedrick May, Elizabeth Archuleta, Amy E. Winans, and Rochelle Zuck.