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Penn State’s English department is the historic home of American literary studies. In the early twentieth century, Fred Lewis Pattee became the first English professor in the country to teach classes exclusively devoted to American works. The Penn State Center for American Literary Studies aims to be similarly ground-breaking. Founded in 2006, CALS seeks to advance the study, teaching, and reading of American literature, making Penn State an internationally-recognized source of pioneering work in American literary and cultural studies.

CALS provides a vital forum for new ways of reading and thinking about American literature. We realize this mission in two primary ways: 1 through academic programs and 2 through public reading programs.

In its dual scholarly and public mission, the Center generates promising new forms of community and intellectual exchange.

There is much to celebrate in the study of American literature and culture at Penn State. English professors are engaged in momentous works of scholarship with wide-ranging consequences, such as Sandra Spanier’s Hemingway Letters Project, supported by the National Endowment of the Humanities and published by Cambridge University Press; James West’s Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald; and Christopher Castiglia’s edition of Walt Whitman’s only published novel, to name just a few. Penn State has major library holdings in American literature, including the Kenneth Burke Collection, the Fred Lewis Pattee Collection, and the Arthur O. Lewis Utopia Collection.

These resources are just the start. In recent years, scholars have begun to revisit the long-standing notion that early American authors generated a national literature in splendid isolation. The question of how transnational and circum-Atlantic exchanges have shaped American literature and culture over the centuries has led to an evolving body of scholarly work that considers American literature in a variety of exciting new contexts. In this spirit, the Center for American Literary Studies is dedicated to producing innovative approaches to questions of imagination, textual production, aesthetics, community formation, and ethical democracy.

At the same time, CALS encourages and supports the study of works by American authors beyond the Penn State campuses and reaches out, as Fred Lewis Pattee did, beyond the ivory tower to make the case for the vital importance of American literature to American life. Shared texts constitute a key form of community building. The Center for American Literary Studies offers events designed to engage readers, draw them together, and position American literature as an important public space.

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Courtney Murray has recently been awarded several internal and external fellowships to support the completion of her dissertation. These include the American Antiquarian Society's Jay and Deborah Last fellowship, which supports research projects that draw heavily on visual materials; as a short-term visiting academic fellow, she will conduct research on African American print coverage of slave voyages and ships. She has also received a second short-term award—the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship—from the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Additionally, Murray has been named a 2024-2025 center and institutes fellow with Penn State's George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center. She has also been named one of only four residents to Penn State's Humanities Institute for Summer 2024.

Congratulations, Courtney, on all of these fantastic accomplishments!

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Julia Spicher Kasdorf has won the Writer's Conference of Northern Appalachia's 2024 Outstanding Contribution Award. This award recognizes those whose work brings greater visibility to the peoples and cultures of Northern Appalachia. The conference board remarked that, through both her poetry and directorship of Penn State's creative writing program, Kasdorf serves as "a pillar in the educational and artistic communities of northern Appalachia." As part of the award, a $300 donation has been made in her name to Ridgelines Language Arts of Bellefonte, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing creative arts programming to underserved groups across central Pennsylvania.

Congratulations, Julia, on this recognition of your impactful work as a writer and educator!

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Tina Chen has won the 2024 Rosemary Schraer Mentoring Award from Penn State. This award recognizes university employees "who have a record of outstanding mentoring service that goes beyond the requirements of their employment duties and responsibilities."

Within the English department, Chen founded (and for many years directed) the graduate mentoring program, a cohort-based program that pairs incoming graduate students with more senior ones to provide support and foster community. In her role as managing editor of Verge: Studies in Global Asias, Chen not only employs and mentors two graduate student workers, but also encourages collaboration between emerging and established scholars within the journal's pages and through its associated programming. (Chen recently spoke of her editorial commitment to mentorship at the 2024 CALS Spring Symposium.) As one nominator said, Chen's work as a mentor "benefit[s] this generation of new scholars but will also undoubtedly help many more to come.”

Congratulations, Tina, on this recognition of your numerous and invaluable efforts to support the continued growth and health of the profession!

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Courtney Murray appeared as a guest on the most recent episode of C19 Podcast, produced by C19: The Society of Nineteenth Century Americanists. She currently serves as leader and editor of the G19 Collective, C19's graduate student collective.

In this episode of C19 Podcast, Murray previews the 2024 C19 conference with fellow C19 members, focusing particularly on the meaning and importance of this year's conference theme, "The End." "I want to hone in on ends being beginnings," says Murray, who sees parallels between her experience as "a graduate student coming to the end of my graduate career" and ongoing "conversations about the end of the humanities." The question remains, in Murray's words, "What needs to end so we can move forward and begin?"

Congratulations, Courtney, on this opportunity to represent G19 and the important contributions and concerns of emerging nineteenth-century Americanist scholars!

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Rob Nguyen has accepted a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor of English at Lycoming College. He is currently a post-doctoral teaching fellow at Penn State, where he earned his PhD in English and Visual Studies in 2023. Congratulations, Rob, on this fantastic job market success!

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Josh Tuttle has accepted a tenure-track position at Concordia University in Chicago. His research focuses on "spooky literature," and to that end he launched an undergraduate course at Penn State on "Weird Literature" in spring 2023. Congratulations, Josh, on this great job market success!

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Carmin Wong has co-authored, with a collective of fellow scholars, educators, and artists, the Furious Flower Syllabus. This open-access syllabus, sponsored by James Madison University's Furious Flower Poetry Center, is designed for students at all levels and contains a series of lesson plans to introduce readers to the world of Black poetry. As she notes in an interview with Furious Flower, the purpose of the syllabus is "building a community—a network, a space—for Black poetry to continue to not only exist but to be celebrated." The syllabus was awarded a 2025 Divergent Award by the Initiative for Literacy in the Digital Age, which recognizes innovative approaches to promoting literacy that extend beyond the classroom and are responsive to an increasingly digital world.

Wong is also a contributing author to The Playwright's Toolbox, a reference book featuring advice for (and by) emerging and established playwrights.

A profile of Wong and her far-reaching, innovative work can be found in the PennStater alumni magazine here.

Congratulations, Carmin, on these exciting projects and recognitions of your work!

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Wendyliz Martinez has been awarded an American Dissertation Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The fellowship, which provides significant financial support in the final year of dissertation-writing, recognizes woman scholars whose work is of the highest academic excellence and who are committed to serving women and girls in their personal or professional communities.

Congratulations, Wendyliz, on this major recognition of you and your work!

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Yolanda Mackey has won the Dorothy Porter Wesley New Scholar Award from the Bibliographical Society of America. In addition to a stipend and travel funds, this award also comes with an invitation to publish in the society's quarterly journal, Papers of the Bibliographic Society of America.

Congratulations, Yolanda, on this wonderful recognition of you and your work!