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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.

Richard Matthew Doyle

Richard Doyle, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English, has won the 2022 Excellence in Honors Teaching Award. This award is presented annually by the Schreyer Honors College to an honors faculty member who has been nominated by their students for "exceptional commitment to honors instruction." Congratulations, Richard, on this outstanding recognition!

Aldon Nielsen

Aldon Nielsen has published a new book of poetry, Sufferhead (Bottlecap Press). Inspired by the music of Fela Aníkúlápó Kuti, Nielsen’s latest chapbook is shaped by and responds to the volatile socio-political conditions of the past two years, and “finds lyric hope in the midst of roiling forces unleashed by politics and pandemic.” Congratulations, Aldon!

John "Jack" Selzer

Jack Selzer, Paterno Family Liberal Arts Professor Emeritus of Literature, has won the 2022 Emeritus Distinction Award given by the College of Liberal Arts. This award recognizes an emeritus faculty member who demonstrates excellent work in every dimension of the profession, from research and teaching, to service within the university community and the general public. Jack has been an emeritus professor since 2013, and has spent more than four decades as part of the English department. Congratulations to Jack for continuing his substantial contributions to our academic community!

Shirley Moody-Turner

Shirley Moody-Turner, Associate Professor of English and African American Studies, has won the 2022 Stephanie J. Pavouček Shields Faculty Award. Sponsored by the College of the Liberal Arts, this award recognizes tenured faculty members who engage in “professionally oriented service and mentoring on behalf of women at the university.” She is the fourth CALS-affiliated faculty member to win this award since 2015. Congratulations to Shirley for achieving this college-wide distinction!

Shannon McClellan Brooks, Ray Rosas, & Lauren Barnes

Shannon McClellan Brooks, Ray Rosas, and Lauren Barnes were collectively awarded a Diversity & Inclusion Initiative grant from the Graduate Alliance for Diversity & Inclusion (GADI) in support of their project, “Graduate Community in Conversation: Negotiating the Norms of Academic Writing,” a series of writing workshops for graduate students from historically underrepresented backgrounds. Shannon, Ray, and Lauren will oversee the inaugural series of workshops starting in Fall 2022. Congratulations to Shannon, Ray, and Lauren!


Cheryl Sterling

Cheryl Sterling's edited volume, Transnational Africana Women’s Fiction, was published by Routledge in September 2021. Featuring contributions on writers and filmmakers across the African and African diaspora world, this collection explores how “the transnational sphere can serve to highlight voices at the margins of gender and race hierarchies.” The totality of work included in this volume focuses on Africana women as “the centers of their own knowledge production and agency,” accomplishing in turn an update to the “canon on women in the African and African Diaspora literary sphere” that adds “substantive nuance to diasporic subjectivity.” Congratulations to Cheryl for bringing together this significant volume!