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Toni Bowers

Professor of English


Curriculum Vitae

Fisher-Bennett Hall 239

Office Hours

spring 2023

By appointment. 


Toni Bowers (Professor; Ph.D. Stanford University).

I specialize in 4 related subject areas: English-language writing from the 17th and 18th centuries, gender studies, the history of pantomime, and silent film.

I teach undergraduate and graduate courses on writing from the 17th and 18th centuries, lyric poetry, epistolary fiction, and early 20th-century silent film.  I have taught at Penn for more than thirty years, and during that time have also been invited to serve as a visiting professor at the University of Edinburgh and at Kings College London. In 2018, I served as MacLain Distinguished Professor at Colorado College. In 2022, Penn honored me with the Ira Abrams Award for Distinguished Teaching. 

I have published on the imaginative construction of motherhood in early-modern Britain, on the ideological struggles built into scenes of seduction/rape in literature and visual art, and on the relationship between force-based systems (e.g., chattel slavery, patriarchy)  and sentimentalism in early-modern writing from the Atlantic world. I publish original scholarly essays in peer-reviewed journals, student-friendly editons of  early narratives, and edited collections of thematically related essays by other scholars. I participate in peer-review as a reviewer as well as an author. I have lectured by invitation across the United States and in Canada, England, Finland, France, the Netherlands, and Scotland.

In addition to dozens of essays and reviews, I've published two original monographs:  Force or Fraud: British Seduction Stories and the Problem of Resistance, 1660-1760, (Oxford University Press, 2011), and The Politics of Motherhood: British Writing and Culture, 1660-1760 (Cambridge University Press, 1996). With Professor John Richetti (Penn), I co-edited a 1-volume abridgement, for students, of Samuel Richardson's 1747-48 8-volume masterpiece Clarissa (Broadview Press, 2010). Our edition is now in frequent use in undergraduate and graduate classrooms worldwide. With Professor Tita Chico (Maryland), I edited a volume of scholarly essays titled Atlantic Worlds in the Long Eighteenth Century  (Palgrave, 2012).

Currently, I am co-editing (with Professor Albert Rivero of Marquette University) the first teaching edition of Richardson's entire 4-volume novel Pamela (1740-41), one of the most influential works of the eighteenth century. I am also editing for publication two first-person memoirs about the artistic processes of the pantomimist filmmaker Charles Chaplin. I have been granted permission by the respective literary estates to edit and publish these works, both of which were written by close Chaplin contemporaries but have never before been published. With assistance from Penn graduate student Peter Diamond and Penn undergraduate Aubrey Shi,  I am completing the digitalization of both memoirs now, and expect to complete the editing and annotations in 2024. 

 I direct and advise doctoral dissertations at Penn and at other institutions around the world. I supervise independent studies at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and serve on committees for Penn's English Department, the School of Arts and Sciences, the University as a whole, and several national and international scholary societies. I have been the recipient of a number of  fellowships and prizes, for instance from the NEH, the British Academy, the Newberry Library, the Huntington Library (two long-term awards), the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and the Harry Ransom Center, among other awards.

I have served as faculty mentor to the Undergraduate Advisory Board.  I co-founded the Atlantic Studies Seminar at Penn's McNeil Center for Early American Studies and I founded the campus-wide undergraduate club Perspectives in Humanities. The latter student group, with my help, inaugurated the ongoing Penn Authors' Forum, where Penn faculty informally share their research with undergraduates. I served for many years as Faculty-in-Residence at Kings Court-English College House and on the Steering Committee and as a Core Faculty Member for Penn's Gender Studies program (GSWS), as well as on the Advisory Board to the McNeil Center. I serve as editorial consultant for a number of academic journals and publishing houses. I've been both Delegate and member of the Executive Committee of the Delegates for the ACLS (American Council for Learned Societies), and have served the Modern Language Association as a member, then Chair, of the Executive Committee for Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Studies. I've also been a Delegate for the MLA and have served on its Executive Committee for Scottish Literature.



Articles and Book Chapters

"'The Abdicated Family': Hume's Partisan Grammar in 'Of the Protestant Succession'" Restoration: Study in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700 (2015)
"Dancing with Michael Jackson" Los Angeles Review of Books (2015)

Doctoral Dissertations Chaired


Alice Tweedy McGrath "Patchwork Fictions: Imagining Intimacy Beyond the Marriage Plot"


Alyssa Connell " Paper Kingdom: Travel Literature, Chorography, and the Writing of Britain, 1660-1770"


David Alff "British Writing and the Culture of Projection: 1660–1790"


Juliet Shields "Engendering Great Britain: Literary Representations of Anglo-Scottish Relations, 1700-1730"


Brett Wilson "Maudlin Whigs: Gender, Feeling, and Party on the British Stage, 1688-1746"

Courses Taught

fall 2022

spring 2022

ENGL 090.401 Writing Women, Part 2  

fall 2021

ENGL 069.001 Studies in Lyric Poetry  
ENGL 090.402 Writing Women, Part 1  

spring 2021

ENGL 069.001 Studies in Lyric Poetry  
ENGL 090.401 Sexuality and Power  

fall 2020

ENGL 090.401 Writing Women: 1660 to 1760  

fall 2019

fall 2018

ENGL 545.301 Eighteenth-Century Novels  

summer 2018

spring 2018

ENGL 060.001 Early British Novels  
ENGL 345.301 Epistolary Fiction  

fall 2017

spring 2017

ENGL 047.001 Scottish Literature canceled  

fall 2016

ENGL 345.401 Epistolary Fiction  
ENGL 544.401 Richardson canceled  

spring 2016

ENGL 245.401 The Pamela Craze  

fall 2015

ENGL 047.001 Scottish Literature  
ENGL 345.301 British Epistolary Fiction  

spring 2015

ENGL 345.301 British Epistolary Fiction  

spring 2014

ENGL 341.301 Pamela Craze  

spring 2012

ENGL 090.401 Writing Women: 1660-1800  

fall 2011

ENGL 045.001 18th Century British Novel  
ENGL 390.401 Sexuality and Power  

spring 2011

ENGL 345.301 Richardson and Epistolarity  

fall 2010

ENGL 730.401 Epistolary Fiction  

spring 2010

ENGL 045.401 18th-Century Novel  
ENGL 341.401 The Pamela Craze  

fall 2009

ENGL 090.401 Writing Women, 1660-1800  

spring 2009

ENGL 245.401 Epistolary Fiction  

fall 2008

spring 2008

fall 2007

ENGL 045.001 Eighteenth Century Novel  
ENGL 553.401 18th Century Women Writers  

spring 2006

ENGL 540.401 Seduction and Literature  

fall 2005

ENGL 045.001 18th Century Novel  

spring 2005

ENGL 345.401 The Pamela Controversy  
ENGL 553.401 Writing Women, 1660-1760  

fall 2003

ENGL 016.302 Ways of Reading canceled  
ENGL 045.001 18th Century Novel canceled  

spring 2002

fall 2001

ENGL 544.401 Richardson  

spring 2001

ENGL 045.001 18th Century Novel  
ENGL 553.401 Writing Women 1660-1760  

fall 2000

ENGL 800.301 Teaching of Literature  

spring 1999

ENGL 100.401 Intro. To Literary Study  

fall 1998

fall 1997

ENGL 203.001 Major British Novel  
ENGL 299.314 Independent Study  
ENGL 343.401 Seduction in Literature  

spring 1997

ENGL 100.001 Intro to Literary Study  

fall 1996

ENGL 045.001 18th Century Novel  
ENGL 090.401 Women and Literature  

spring 1995

fall 1994

ENGL 045.001 The 18th-Century Novel