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Peter Conn

Vartan Gregorian Professor of English


Fisher-Bennett Hall 313

Office Hours

Spring 2015: Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-5:00 and by appt.

Peter Conn is Vartan Gregorian Emeritus Professor of English and Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, and is also a member of the graduate groups in the history of art and American civilization, a member of the urban studies and Asian-American studies faculties, and an affiliated member of the Center for East Asian Studies. His publications include The Divided Mind: Ideology and Imagination in America, 1898-1917 (Cambridge University Press, 1983; paperback editions, 1988 and 2008), and Literature in America (Cambridge University Press, 1989), which was a main selection of Associated Book Clubs (UK). Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography (Cambridge, 1996; Paperback 1998), was chosen as a "New York Times Notable Book," was listed among the best 25 books of 1996 by Publishers Weekly and among the best books of the year by Library Journal, was included among the five finalists for the National Book Critics Circle award in biography, and received the Athenaeum Award.

Conn's The American 1930s: A Literary History, was published by Cambridge in 2009. His most recent book, Adoption: a Brief Social and Cultural History, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013. He has published editions of Washington Square, by Henry James, Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, and Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. In 2009, The Teaching Company released Conn's video course and book on "American Best Sellers."

Conn's books and chapters have been translated into eight languages, including Chinese, Spanish, Romanian, and Korean. He has lectured at numerous American universities, and internationally in Ireland, England, Russia, Thailand, Romania, Japan, and China. He has also given talks at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Whitney Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and other institutions, on a number of American artists, including Edward Hopper, William Christenberry, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Maxfield Parrish, Charles Sheeler, Wharton Esherick, and The Eight. In addition, he has published essays in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the job market in the humanities, China and American universities, and university and college accreditation. In 2011, under the pseudonym Zachary Peters, Conn edited and published the posthumous non-fiction novel, Who Killed Warren G. Harding? by the late, fictitious journalist, Timothy Wright.

A John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, Conn has directed National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) seminars for college and high school teachers, and was the recipient of an NEH Humanities Focus grant. He has received several awards for distinguished teaching, including the Ira Abrams award, the Mortarboard Award, and the Lindback Award, the university's senior teaching prize. Conn has served on the selection committee of the PEN Albrend award for non-fiction. He has received the Exemplary Leadership Award of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. From 1987 through 1995, Conn acted as senior consultant on curriculum development to the Philadelphia Superintendent of Schools.

Conn's teaching projects have included College 005: The Great Books; English 401: Teaching American Studies, which places undergraduates as teaching assistants in a Philadelphia high school; English 800, a graduate course that combines the study of literature and composition with teacher training; and, for the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia, a course in children's literature. He has served as literary consultant on numerous television projects, including the Emmy-winning series, "The American Short Story," adaptations of novels by James Baldwin and Saul Bellow, and a video biography of John Dos Passos. He served as principal literary advisor to "Oprah's Book Club" for The Good Earth

Since 1993, Conn has served as visiting professor at the University of Nanjing, in the People's Republic of China. He has been appointed a Fulbright Specialist scholar. In 2011, and again in 2013, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Conn lectured in West China on topics in American studies. 

Conn has served as Dean of the College, executive director of the Philadelphia Committee for College Placement, chair of the graduate groups in American Civilization and English, Faculty Master of Robert Hill College House and Community House and deputy and interim provost. He was the founding Faculty Director of Civic House, the university's center for community service, and the co-founder and director of the Urban Education minor program. Currently, he chairs the Major Gifts committee of the Pennsylvania/Delaware chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Peter Conn and his wife Terry have four children, Steven, David, Alison, and Jennifer, and (at last count) eight grandchildren.


News & Events

Courses Taught

spring 2015

ENGL 286.301 American Bestsellers

spring 2014

ENGL 486.640 The American 1930s

fall 2011

ENGL 260.301 Henry James and Others

fall 2010

ENGL 044.001 American Bestsellers

spring 2010

ENGL 104.401 The 20th-Century

fall 2009

ENGL 593.301 American Bestsellers

fall 2007

spring 2007

fall 2006

fall 2002

ENGL 386.301 The American 1930s

fall 2001

fall 2000

fall 1999

fall 1998

spring 1998

ENGL 104.401 The Twentieth Century
ENGL 588.640 The American 1930's

fall 1997

fall 1996

spring 1996

ENGL 588.301 The American 1930's

fall 1995

fall 1979

ENGL 094.001 Major British Writers