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American Literature Before 1900

American Literature Before 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

  • Early American Literacies
  • Virtue’s Commerce in 18th-Century Britain and North America
  • Hemispheric American Studies
  • Oceanic American Studies
  • Sentiment and Sensation in 19th-Century America
  • Henry James and Others
  • Democracy and its Discontents
  • 19th Century Queer
  • American Literary Periodicals
  • Emerson, Thoreau, and the Environment
  • American Realism and Naturalism Reconsidered
  • Herman Melville and the Profession of Authorship
  • Genre Studies in African American Literature
  • Environmental Nonfiction

Center for American Literary Studies

The Penn State Center for American Literary Studies, directed by John Marsh, is dedicated to supporting the study, teaching, and reading of American literatures. CALS is quickly becoming a leading national center; it offers exceptional research and fellowship opportunities for Penn State faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students. The Center’s activities have international reach, as well; recently, CALS sponsored and hosted the inaugural conference of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists. Visit the CALS website at

Field-Defining Scholarship and Groundbreaking Conferences

Penn State Americanists have formed academic societies, created new models for interdisciplinary teaching, and hosted influential conferences. For example, Hester Blum, Chris Castiglia and Sean Goudie formed the new society C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists and hosted its inaugural conference at Penn State in 2010. Michael Anesko serves as the General Editor for The Cambridge Edition of the Complete Fiction of Henry James, and Carla Mulford was the founding president of the Society of Early Americanists. Bob Burkholder founded the innovative Penn State Wilderness Literature Field Institute. Lovalerie King, Linda Furgerson Selzer, and Shirley Moody Turner have co-hosted an ongoing series of conferences entitled “Celebrating African American Literature.” These collaborative projects offer many opportunities for Penn State graduate students to contribute both professionally and intellectually.

Graduate Faculty

Nineteenth-century American literature and culture; environmental humanities; Herman Melville; polar and oceanic studies; first-person narratives

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.

Graduate Students