Dr. Melissa J. Ganz

Melissa Ganz
Dr. Melissa J. GanzMarquette University

Marquette Hall, 237

MilwaukeeWI53201United States of America
(414) 288-3480

Associate Professor


I work on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature and culture, with a particular focus on the relationship between literature, law, and ethics. I also have broad interests in gender studies, transatlantic studies, and the history of the novel. My research is driven by the desire to understand how debates about law and justice have shaped literary texts in the past and how literature can help us think through questions of law and justice that remain of concern to this day. I hold a Ph.D. in English Literature from Yale, a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and an M.A. in American Studies from Yale. Before coming to Marquette, I taught at Harvard and Stanford.

My first book, Public Vows: Fictions of Marriage in the English Enlightenment (University of Virginia Press, June 2019), offers a new account of the marriage plot, arguing for the centrality of nuptial law to early fiction and of novels to nuptial regulation. Like many legal and social thinkers of their day, the book shows, novelists including Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Frances Burney, Eliza Fenwick, and Amelia Opie imagine marriage as a public institution subject to regulation by church and state rather than a private agreement between two free individuals. Even as novelists attempt to shore up the legal regulation of marriage, however, they criticize the particular forms that these regulations take. In uncovering writers’ engagements with the nuptial controversies of the Enlightenment, Public Vows challenges longstanding accounts of domestic fiction as contributing to sharp divisions between public and private life and as supporting the traditional, patriarchal family. At the same time, the book counters received views of law and literature, highlighting fiction’s often simultaneous affirmations and critiques of legal authority. The book was published as the winner of the 2018 Walker Cowen Memorial Prize in Eighteenth-Century Studies.

I have also written on legal and ethical questions in novels by Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James, and Robert Louis Stevenson, and on courtroom storytelling in nineteenth-century America. My current projects include a study of eighteenth-century literature and penal reform, a study of nineteenth-century fiction and criminal responsibility, and a series of essays on Romantic-era women writers' engagements with moral philosophy.

In my teaching, as in my research, I emphasize the interplay between literary form and historical change. I teach a range of classes, from introductory surveys to special topics in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature, law and literature, and the history of the novel. Recent undergraduate offerings include two legal-themed classes, “Legal Fictions of the Enlightenment” and “Crime and Punishment in English Fiction,” which count toward the interdisciplinary minor in Law and Society; a section of English 3000 (the gateway class for English majors) entitled “Protest and Rebellion in the British Tradition,” which surveys literature from the late eighteenth century to the present day; and a first-year Honors seminar that examines changing representations of evil from Chaucer to Primo Levi.  At the graduate level, my courses include “Literature and the Passions in the Age of Reason,” “Literature and Politics in the Age of Revolution,” and “The Eighteenth-Century Novel.”  I also maintain an active interest in pedagogy and have led workshops on teaching strategies for beginning and advanced instructors in the humanities and social sciences.

I enjoy fostering and participating in interdisciplinary exchanges and recently completed a five-year term on the Executive Committee of the MLA Forum on Law and the Humanities. In July 2021, I began a term on the Advisory Committee of PMLA.  Here at Marquette, I convene the Humanities Research Colloquium and serve on the Advisory Board for the Honors in Humanities Program.

I am happy to mentor independent projects and would welcome inquiries from students interested in working in any of my research or teaching fields.

Courses Taught


  • Foundations in Rhetoric:  The Rhetoric of Criminal Justice
  • Honors English I:  Imagining the Human: Middle Ages to Enlightenment (paired with Honors Philosophy)
  • Honors English I:  Literature and Evil  (paired with Honors Philosophy)
  • Honors English II:  Crime and Punishment in English Fiction
  • Core Honors First-Year Seminar: Imagining Evil
  • Core Honors First-Year Seminar: Justice and Judgment in the Western Imagination
  • Critical Practices and Processes in Literary Studies: Protest and Rebellion in the British Tradition
  • The Rise of the Novel
  • Legal Fictions of the Enlightenment
  • Crime and Punishment in English Fiction
  • Humanities Honors Project Seminar


  • The Eighteenth-Century Novel
  • Literature and the Passions in the Age of Reason
  • Literature and Politics in the Age of Revolution

Research Interests

  • British Literature and Culture, 1700-1900
  • History of the Novel
  • Law and Literature
  • Literature and Ethics
  • Moral, Social, and Political Thought
  • Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Transatlantic Studies
  • History of Emotion


  • Public Vows: Fictions of Marriage in the English Enlightenment (University of Virginia Press, 2019).
  • "'A Kind of Insanity in My Spirits': Frankenstein, Childhood, and Criminal Intent," forthcoming in Eighteenth-Century Studies.
  • "Marriage Law," forthcoming in Daniel Defoe in Context, ed. George Justice and Albert J. Rivero (Cambridge University Press).
  • "Debating Persuasion," in Approaches to Teaching Austen's "Persuasion," ed. Marcia McClintock Folsom and John Wiltshire (MLA Approaches to Teaching World Literature Series, 2021), 175-82.
  • "Carrying On Like a Madman: Insanity and Responsibility in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,Nineteenth-Century Literature 70, no. 3 (December 2015): 363-97.
  • "Freedom and Fetters: Nuptial Law in Burney’s The Wanderer,” in Impassioned Jurisprudence: Law, Literature, and Emotion, 1760-1848, ed. Nancy E. Johnson (Bucknell University Press, 2015), 66-88.
  • “Debate,” in The Pocket Instructor: Literature: 101 Exercises for the College Classroom, ed. Diana Fuss and William A. Gleason (Princeton University Press, 2015), 21-23.
  • “Clandestine Schemes: Burney’s Cecilia and the Marriage Act,” The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 54, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 25-51.
  • “Binding the Will: George Eliot and the Practice of Promising,” ELH 75, no. 3 (Fall 2008): 565-602.
  • “‘A Strange Opposition’: The Portrait of a Lady and the Divorce Debates,” The Henry James Review 27, no. 2 (Spring 2006): 156-174.
  • Moll Flanders and English Marriage Law,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 17, no. 2 (January 2005): 157-182.
  • “Wicked Women and Veiled Ladies: Gendered Narratives of the McFarland-Richardson Tragedy,” Yale Journal of Law and Feminism 9, no. 2 (Fall 1997): 255-303.
  • Reviews and review essays in American Journal of Legal History; Journal of British Studies; Law, Culture, and the Humanities; Victorian Studies; and Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities.

Honors and Awards

  • Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, 2021-22 (deferred from 2020-21).
  • Walker Cowen Memorial Prize in Eighteenth-Century Studies, University of Virginia Press, 2018.
  • Way Klingler Young Scholar Award, Marquette University, 2015.
  • Principal Investigator, Strategic Innovation Fund Grant, Marquette University, 2015-17.
  • Summer Faculty Fellowship, Marquette University, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2021.
  • Faculty Research Mini-Grant, Center for Peacemaking, Marquette University, 2021.
  • Faculty Development Awards, Marquette University, 2013-2020.
  • Newberry Renaissance Consortium Grant, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019.
  • Harvard College Fellowship, Department of English, Harvard University, 2010-12.
  • Certificate of Teaching Excellence, Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning and Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education, Harvard University, 2010, 2011, 2012.
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Introduction to the Humanities Program, Stanford University, 2007-10.
  • Honorable Mention, Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Association Essay Prize, 2008.  
  • Junior Scholar, Fifth Annual Law and Humanities Workshop, 2006 (sponsored by Columbia Law School, Georgetown Law School, UCLA School of Law, and the University of Southern California Center for Law, History, and Culture).
  • Dissertation Fellowship, Yale University, 2005.
  • John F. Enders Fellowship, Yale University, 2005.
  • Catharine Macaulay Prize, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2004.

Additional Information

Office Hours
Fall 2021

  • On Sabbatical

Teaching Schedule

Fall 2021

  • On Sabbatical

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