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Elisabeth West

Professor of English
Department Chair
Office Location: 303 Howard Hall

Lisa West CV

I received my B.A. in English and Environmental Studies from Williams College, then worked a few years for the Environmental Protection Agency as a paralegal.  Returning to education, I received a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Stanford University, with a focus on British and American Literature 1750-1850, particularly representations of nature in fiction and nonfiction.

My primary scholarly interests are in early American literary culture, 18th and 19th century women writers, and writing and the environment. Sometimes these interests coincide, as in a recent essay published in Gendered Ecologies, while sometimes they do not. I am currently working on an essay on Melville and the ecogothic; an essay on visual images of ancient ruins in the midwest; and a book project on early American representations of domestic violence and “bad” marriages.  I am involved in several scholarly organizations focused on the teaching of early American writing and the recovery of texts that were published long ago then forgotten.  

In my courses you can expect an interdisciplinary focus, exposure to popular writings of the past, consideration of genre and narrative form (particularly as it relates to book history), and a dedication to the close reading of texts through a variety of methodologies. I teach a course on the Salem Witch Trials, which has broadened my sense of teaching more than I ever imagined, as well as a variety of 19th century American literature courses.

I also teach a class on Transatlantic Landscapes, a class on Captivity Narratives, Reading/Writing Nature, and a class on Nature Writing and Activism (that has now been adapted to an FYS). My classes often are crosslisted with Women’s and Gender Studies, the Honors Program, Law, Politics, and Society, or the Interdisciplinary Study of Humanities and Science. My best memories in the classroom are when I learn from students, from discussion, or from encountering new reading material. 

I am currently chair of the department. If you are a student reading this profile, please stop by and see me. I want to learn more about student experiences and what we as a department can do to foster growth, create memories, and help move you toward future endeavors. Reading, writing, discussing, and being mindful of the world around us are skills and joys for a variety of professions and callings in life. 


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