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 and an M.A. in American Studies from Yale and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. My work has been supported by a number of fellowships, including most recently a 2021-22 Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellowship at Princeton's Center for Human Values.

My first book, Public Vows: Fictions of Marriage in the English Enlightenment (University of Virginia Press, 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 shoring up 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 authors such as 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 women writers' engagements with moral philosophy. In addition, I am editing a volume of essays (under contract with Cambridge UP) on British law and literature in the long eighteenth century and am co-editing a multi-volume collection of primary-source materials (under contract with Routledge) related to British law and literature in the long nineteenth century.

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.

From 2019 to 2021, I served as Director of Strategy in the English Department, where I oversaw outreach and marketing efforts and organized career-oriented and community-building events. I remain committed to fostering a broad understanding of the value of English and the humanities and their centrality to public life. I also enjoy fostering and participating in interdisciplinary exchanges and recently completed a term on the Executive Committee of the MLA Forum on Law and the Humanities. Here at Marquette, I convene the Humanities Research Colloquium and serve on the Advisory Board for the Honors in Humanities Program.

I look forward to connecting with students and colleagues who share my research and/or teaching interests.

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).
  • “Legal Vengeance and Popular Violence: Reimagining Justice in The Heart of Midlothian,” forthcoming in Law, Equity, and Romantic Writing: Seeking Justice in the Age of Revolutions, ed. Michael Demson and Regina Hewitt (Edinburgh University Press).

  • "Literature and the Law," forthcoming in The Routledge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Literatures in English, ed. Sarah Eron, Nicole Aljoe, and Suvir Kaul (Routledge).
  • "Marriage," forthcoming in The Elgar Concise Encyclopedia of Law and Literature, ed. Robert Spoo and Simon Stern (Edward Elgar Publishing).
  • "Marriage Law," in Daniel Defoe in Context, ed. Albert J. Rivero and George Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2023), 257-64.
  • "Corporate Persons, Collective Responsibility, and the Literary Imagination," Critical Analysis of Law: An International and Interdisciplinary Law Review 9, no. 2 (Fall 2022): 46-57. Part of a Book Forum on Lisa Siraganian's Modernism and the Meaning of Corporate Persons (Oxford UP, 2021).
  • "'A Kind of Insanity in My Spirits': Frankenstein, Childhood, and Criminal Intent," Eighteenth-Century Studies 56, no. 1 (Fall 2022): 53-74.
  • "'The fidelity of promising': Egoism and Obligation in Austen," Review of English Studies 73, no. 309 (April 2022): 344-60.  Advance Access (February 2, 2022).
  • "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,” 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,” 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 Fellowship, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, 2021-22.
  • Walker Cowen Memorial Prize in Eighteenth-Century Studies, University of Virginia Press, 2018.
  • Way Klingler Young Scholar Award, Marquette University, 2015.
  • Interdisciplinary Summer Grant, Institute for Women's Leadership, 2023.
  • 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.
  • Newberry Renaissance Consortium Grant, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2023.
  • 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
Spring 2024

  • TuTh 3:30-5:00
  • By appointment

Teaching Schedule

Spring 2024

  • ENGL 3000/101 TuTh 2:00-3:15 Lalumiere Hall 232
    • Introduction to Literary Studies: Protest and Rebellion in the British Tradition
  • ENGL 4472/101 TuTh 11:00-12:15 Cudahy Hall 137
    • British Literature of the Victorian Period, 1837-1900: Victorian Literature and Social Reform

Faculty & Staff Directory


Department of English
Marquette Hall, 115
1217 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53233
(414) 288-7179

Contact Us


Facebook Twitter Instagram


Report an accessibility problem

To report another problem, please contact wendy.walsh@marquette.edu.