New Avenues for English

Department of English faculty are the leaders in their fields, publishing innovative and award-winning scholarship, investigating new ideas in adventurous graduate seminars, and receiving research support from top grantmakers. Find all faculty research interests.


How should we rethink literature in English for a global world?

  • Professor Nabil Matar is a pioneer in bringing to light relationships between Islamic civilization and early modern Europe, with several monographs and translations in the subject. He is a former CLA Samuel Russell Chair in the Humanities.
  • Katherine Scheil is a noted expert on the globalization of Shakespeare, with her fourth book, the first cultural history of Anne Hathaway, out with Cambridge University Press.
  • Guggenheim Fellow John Watkins helped initiate the New Diplomatic History that has transformed the study of early modern international relations.
  • A former Samuel Russell Chair in the Humanities, Timothy Brennan published Borrowed Light, Vol. I: Vico, Hegel and the Colonies (Stanford) and is at work on the second volume of this major study on anti-colonial theory. In 2021, Brennan published an intellectual biography of Edward Said for Farrar, Straus and Giroux entitled Places of Mind.
  • Rebecca Krug’s widely-praised book Margery Kempe and the Lonely Reader (Cornell University Press) explores the medieval author, famous for her travels to Jerusalem.
  • Brian Goldberg positions British Romanticism as a response to the global crisis of the Napoleonic wars. 
  • Rachel Trocchio studies New England Puritanism in transatlantic (and transpacific) context, with particular focus on the influence of the Reformation on post-Reformation thought and habit in the "New World.”

To support this border-crossing work, we work closely with other units at the University:



How do advances in science change our understanding of reading?

  • Professor Andrew Elfenbein in 2018 published The Gist of Reading (Stanford University Press), which draws from findings of empirical psychology to amend classic reader-response theory and attend to neglected aspects of reading that cannot be explained by traditional literary criticism.
  • Elaine Auyoung’s When Fiction Feels Real: Representation and the Reading Mind (Oxford University Press, 2018), delves into the psychology of reading, providing literary studies with a new cross-disciplinary method for examining the relationship between novelistic technique and literary experience.

Collaborations with the following University units help inspire our scholarship:


How does literature inform our understanding of the most pressing social justice issues of our time?

  • Focusing on the political commitments of 20th-century US and African American literature, Professor Nathaniel Mills in 2017 published Ragged Revolutionaries: The Lumpenproletariat and African American Marxism in Depression-Era Literature (University of Massachusetts Press).
  • Winner of the University's Matthew Stark Award for Civil Liberties and Civil Rights, Ellen Messer-Davidow is the author of The Making of Reverse Discrimination: How DeFunis and Bakke Bleached Racism from Equal Protection (University Press of Kansas, 2021) and Disciplining Feminism: From Social Activism to Academic Discourse.
  • Douglas Kearney's poems and essays explore and question ideas about African-American masculinity. He published the poetry collection Sho (Wave Books) in 2021.
  • Amit Yahav's current scholarship investigates those at the margins of the nation in eighteenth-century literature. Her book Feeling Time: Duration, the Novel, and Eighteenth-Century Sensibility was published in 2018 by Penn Press.
  • Siobhan Craig writes on Fascist-era cinema in Italy and Germany; her current project explores fascism and imperialism, historical events with pressing contemporary significance.
  • Josephine Lee, an expert on Asian American literature and drama, was recognized in 2016 with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Asian American Studies, which she served as president. She received a 2019 NEH Fellowship for her book-in-progress “Blackface and Yellowface: American Theater and Racial Performance."
  • Jani Scandura's book Down in the Dumps: Place, Modernity and American Depression (Duke University Press) explores marginal spaces in US culture and their effects. She is at work on a sophisticated reinterpretation of the concept of proximity.
  • Megan Finch studies the relationship between Enlightenment/racial slavery era discourses on reason and Blackness; her current work focuses on how late 20th-21st century literature by Black women mobilizes these discourses to contest the figure of the "mad black woman” and contemporary definitions of reason.

English professors regularly teach classes in and work with the following units in CLA:


How can literary study contribute to urgent efforts to promote environmental sustainability?

  • Professor Kim Todd writes on science and the impact of humans on animals and the environment, including her first of three books, Tinkering with Eden, A Natural History of Exotic Species in America (W. W. Norton).
  • Dan Philippon studies American environmental literature and its relationship to ideas of nature and culture; he’s at work on a book on food writing, sustainability, and the practice of place. Philippon is also a past president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE).
  • Lianna Farber has taught several courses on food and sustainability, encouraging students to rethink their relation to nutrition and the planet.

These units help us develop and explore ideas about the environment: