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James English

James English

John Welsh Centennial Professor of English

Director, Price Lab for Digital Humanities

Fisher-Bennett Hall 311

Office Hours

fall 2019

Wednesdays 1:30 - 3:00 in Williams Hall 614

Or by appointment in FBH 311

Jim English is founding faculty director of the Price Lab for Digital Humanities. From 2011 to 2018 he directed the Penn Humanities Forum and oversaw its relaunch as the Wolf Humanities Center.  He is a former Chair of the English department and has served as interim Director of Cinema Studies and Moderator of the University Council.

Jim received his MA from the University of Chicago and his PhD from Stanford, specializing in modern and contemporary British fiction. His first book, Comic Transactions: Literature, Humor, and the Politics of Community in Twentieth-Century Britain, explored the political dimensions of joke-work in the British novel from Conrad and Woolf to Lessing and Rushdie. Since then his work has focused on the sociology of literature and especially on its institutional and transnational dimensions. The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value (Harvard UP) was named Best Academic Book of 2005 by New York Magazine.  The Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fiction, a collection of essays about the scene and system of literary production in the UK, was published the following year by Blackwell.  His book The Global Future of English Studies was published in 2012 in the Blackwell Manifesto series  It rethinks the prevailing narratives of contraction and decline that dominate histories of the discipline, stressing instead the discipline's expansion within a rapidly massivying global academic apparatus, and the new challenges and opportunities such sudden and dispersive growth presents.

He is currently completing Beauty By the Numbers, a brief history of attempts to quantify aesthetic value.  An ongoing digital project seeks to express the field of contemporary Anglophone fiction by means of "small data" and quantitative relationships.  Initial results of this research appeared in a special fall 2016 issue of MLQ on "Scale and Value: New and Digital Approaches to Literary History" which Jim co-edited with Ted Underwood. Another digital project, Mining Goodreads: Literary Reception Studies at Scale, involves larger datasets gathered from the social reading site, Goodreads.  Other projects have included a special issue of NLH on the "New Sociologies of Literature," co-edited with Rita Felski (2010), and essays for a collection on the sociology of festivals (2011) and for a new volume of the Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture (2013).  An essay, "Cultural Capital and the Revolutions of Literary Modernity" is included in the Handbook of Modernism Studies (2013). Three short essays appeared in an LARB symposium on Franco Moretti and distant reading, an Exemplaria symposium on Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve, and a Representations response cluster on Eric Bulson's "Ulysses by the Numbers" (2014).  A roundtable Jim organized for MLA 2014, "What is Data in Literary Studies?" has been published as a Colloquy in Arcade. An essay on online review aggregators and algorithmic judgment devices appeared in the fall 2016 issue of WHR.  An essay on the transnational dimensions of British cinema is forthcoming in a volume from Cambridge UP.

Recipient of the 2016 Ira Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching, Jim has taught a range of courses from general surveys of modernist and postmodernist literature to advanced seminars in globlization, critical theory, British cinema, and the audiobook.  In 2015 he taught a graduate seminar, "Empirical Method in Literary Studies."  In 2016-17 he taught a class on literary awards with focus on the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, for which he served as the chair of the judging panel.  His webpage describes his teaching, research, and professional activities in greater detail.


Doctoral Dissertations Chaired


Laura Finch "Intimate Economies: Financial Citizenship and Literary Form in the Contemporary Novel"
Chris Jimenez "The Exploding Globe: Scale and Catastrophe in Contemporary Anglophone Literature"


Melanie Micir "Public Lives, Intimate Archives: Queer Biographical Practices in British Women's Writing"


Mearah Quinn-Brauner "Recovering the Conflicts: Memoirs of the Late-Twentieth Century American Literary Academy"


John Connor "Mid-Century Romance: Modernist Afterlives of the Historical Novel"
Greg Steirer "‘Raise the Black Flag’: The Neoliberal Aesthetic in 1970s Britain"


Anna Ivy "From Princeton to Paradise: Women's Reading in Academic and Popular Culture"


Laura Heffernan "'Bad Form': Modernist Criticism and the Cultural Life of the Aesthetic, 1909-1929"
Matthew Merlino "The Contemporary Historical Novel and the Unsettling of America"
Matthew Ruben "Cultural, Political, and Spatial Transformation in the Late Twentieth Century United States"
Nancy Srebro "Adjusting the Focus: The Modern British Novel and the Rise of American Film"


Jeffrey Dillon Brown "Occidental Drift: London, Modernism and the Politics of Form in Early West Indian Fiction"


Sue Sun Yom "Sex And The American Soldier: Military Cinema and the War on Venereal Disease, 1918-1969"


Jonna Mackin "Subject to Laughter: Comedy and Ethnicity in Contemporary American Fiction"


Giselle Anatol "Mother Countries, Motherlands, and Mother Love: Representations of Motherhood in 20th-Century Caribbean Women's Literature"


Sam Choi "Machines of Metaphor: Myths and Materials of Computer Culture"
Rhonda Frederick "The Colon People: Reading Caribbeanness through the Panama Canal"
Geoffrey Sharpless "The Erotics of Culture: Masculinity and the Victorian Public School"

Courses Taught

fall 2019

ENGL 074.001 Literature as a Marketplace  

fall 2017

fall 2016

ENGL 274.301 Novel of the Year  
ENGL 295.401 British Cinema canceled  

spring 2016

ENGL 265.301 Novels and Novelists Now canceled  

spring 2015

ENGL 295.402 British Cinema  

fall 2014

spring 2013

ENGL 065.001 British Novel Since 1900  

fall 2012

ENGL 295.401 British Cinema  

spring 2012

ENGL 065.001 20th Century Novel  

fall 2011

ENGL 065.401 20th Century British Fiction canceled  

spring 2011

fall 2010

ENGL 016.401 British Cinema  
ENGL 059.401 Modernisms and Mondernities canceled  

spring 2010

fall 2009

spring 2007

ENGL 801.301 Pedagogy  

fall 2006

spring 2006

spring 2005

ENGL 311.302 The Honors Essay  

fall 2004

spring 2003

ENGL 065.001 20th Century British Novel  
ENGL 261.401 Contemporary British Cinema  

fall 2002

ENGL 774.301 Globalization  

spring 2002

ENGL 104.401 The Twentieth Century  
ENGL 261.401 Contemporary British Cinema  

fall 2001

ENGL 800.301 Teaching of Literature  

spring 2001

fall 2000

spring 1999

fall 1998

spring 1997

ENGL 571.401 Marx to Bourdieu  

fall 1995

spring 1995

ENGL 001.001 Independent Study  
ENGL 104.001 The Twentieth Century  
ENGL 309.301 Junior Honors Seminar  

fall 1988

ENGL 095.800 Romantics and Modernists