Dr. Sarah Wadsworth

Sarah Wadsworth
Dr. Sarah WadsworthMarquette University

Marquette Hall, 212

MilwaukeeWI53201United States of America
(414) 288-3479

Professor of English and Director of Marquette University Press

When I applied to graduate school I didn’t know which subfield of English I would choose for my area of specialization. Contemporary British literature drew me, but so did early American literature. As a high school student, and then again in college, I had gone to England to study, and in my mid-twenties I went back there to work. England felt like my second home, more familiar to me than most of the United States.

A two-month road trip on my way to graduate school changed that. Traveling over the Rockies and through the Great Plains, down the Mississippi River Road, and across the Deep South, criss-crossing the States from the Okefenokee Swamp to Lake Itasca, I felt as though I were seeing this strange and beautiful country for the first time. As a scholar, I value the way literature, too, offers new ways of seeing and thinking about the world. As a teacher, I want my classes to open up new ways of “reading” the American experience, and the human experience, through literary texts.

My first book, In the Company of Books: Literature and Its “Classes” in Nineteenth-Century America, grew out of several years I spent working in the publishing business during my twenties. Trying to figure out which books to publish and how to get the right books into the right hands made me wonder how authors and publishers in nineteenth-century America dealt with similar challenges. In this book, I analyzed U.S. fiction within the context of nineteenth-century publishing practices. In the Company of Books also gave me the opportunity to explore the growth of children’s literature, a subject I first taught more than a decade ago as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Carleton College and continue to teach regularly at Marquette.

My second book, Right Here I See My Own Books: The Woman’s Building Library of the World’s Columbian Exposition, is coauthored by Wayne A. Wiegand, an eminent library historian and Professor Emeritus of Florida State University. The book revolves around the World's Columbian Exposition (the 1893 Chicago World's Fair) and a landmark collection of women's writing that was displayed there. Research for the book involved creating a database of titles in this historic library of women’s texts and analyzing the data using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods (close as well as distant reading). In donating royalties to the fledgling National Women’s History Museum, Professor Wiegand and I highlight the continuity between this late nineteenth-century feat of public humanities and the current effort, more than a century later, to establish a permanent, physical museum of U.S. women’s history in the nation’s capital.

My works-in-progress range across the centuries and overseas, from the eighteenth-century Atlantic World to Henry James’s Europe. Together with Marija Dalbello, Professor of Library and Information Science at Rutgers University, I am also working on a coedited collection of essays that will explore he contributions of the twenty-one foreign countries to the Woman’s Building Library at the World’s Columbian Exposition through innovative methodologies.

I especially welcome prospective graduate student advisees interested in conducting research in any area of early (pre-1900) U.S. literature, book history, and children’s literature, as well as gender and reading in the long nineteenth century. At the graduate level, I offer a sequence of courses in U.S. print culture prior to 1900 (“Writing in the 1850s” and “American Periodicals”) that can be taken in either order or by themselves. 

Courses Taught

  • Literature, History, and Culture
  • Texts, Social Systems, and Values
  • Individual Authors (Hawthorne, Melville, Mark Twain)
  • Children’s Literature
  • American History and the Novel
  • US Literature from 1789 to 1865
  • US Literature from 1865 to 1914
  • Literary Criticism
  • Graduate Seminar: Studies in American Literature from the Beginnings to 1900

Research Interests

  • 18th- and 19th-century American Literature
  • History of the Book
  • Critical Childhood Studies
  • Gender and reading
  • Literature and “place”
  • Intersections between American history and literature
  • Digital humanities



Other Volumes

  • Coeditor, Nineteenth Century Studies. Interdisciplinary journal of the Nineteenth Century Studies Association.
  • Ed. (Volume Advisor). “Kenneth Grahame.” Children’s Literature Review 211. Boston: Gale Cengage. 63-107.
  • Mr. Penrose: The Journal of Penrose, Seaman. Williams, William (author), Dickason, David Howard (Editor) and Wadsworth, Sarah (Afterword). Indiana Press, 2013.
  • Ed., Libraries & Culture 41.1 (Winter 2006). Special volume on the Woman’s Building Library of the World’s Columbian Exposition.

Digital Projects

  • Woman’s Building Library Database. Relational database of U.S. texts in the library of the Woman’s Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Published on ePublications@Marquette, 2011.
  • “The Commercial History of a Penny Magazine” by Charles Knight. From The Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Edited and annotated online edition. With Laura K. Dickinson (University of Minnesota).

Peer-Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters

  • "Global Voices from the Women’s Library at the World’s Columbian Exposition: Feminisms, Transnationalism and the Archive." Introduction. In Global Voices from the Women’s Library at the World’s Columbian Exposition. Edited by Marija Dalbello and Sarah Wadsworth. Palgrave Macmillan, 2023.

  • "The New Woman in the White City: Writing from Great Britain in the Woman’s Building Library." In Marija Dalbello and Sarah Wadsworth, eds. Global Voices from the Women’s Library at the World’s Columbian Exposition. Palgrave Macmillan, 2023.

  • “’Through the Window of This Book’: Teaching the History of the Book through Children’s Literature,” in Teaching the History of the Book, ed. Matteo Pangallo and Emily B. Todd,  University of Massachusetts Press, 2023
  • Coauthored review (with Nicole C. Livengood) of This Beautiful Sisterhood of Books: A Digital Recreation of the Women’s Literary Department from the 1884 New Orlean’s World’s Fair," ed. Kate Adams and Jacqueline Thoni Howard,” in the Project Showcase of Recovery Hub for American Women Writers.
  • “Nineteenth-Century Disease, Twenty-First-Century Dis-Ease.” ESQ: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture 67.1 (2021): 203-35. Special Issue: Nineteenth-Century Scholars Respond to a Twenty-First Century Pandemic, edited by LuElla D’Amico. 
  • “’One Crowded Hour of Glorious Life’: Growing Up and Growing Old in The Awkward Age.Studies in American Fiction 46.2 (Fall 2019): 265-88. Special Issue on Critical Approaches to Age in American Literature. Ed. Sari Edelstein and Melanie Dawson.
  • “‘New Friendship Flourished Like Grass in Spring’: Cross-Gender Friendship in Moods and Little Women.” Women’s Studies 48.4 (Spring 2019): 379-92. Special Issue on “The Newness of Little Women.” Ed. Gregory Eiselein and Anne K. Phillips. "
  • “Children’s Literature.” Oxford History of Popular Print Culture. Vol. 5. US Popular Print Culture to 1860. Ed. Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2019. pp. 549-63.
  • Approaching The Blithedale Romance through the History of the Book.” Nathaniel Hawthorne in the College Classroom. Ed. Christopher Diller and Sam Coale. Brooklyn, NY: AMS Press, 2017. Rpt. Edward Everett Root, 2018. Pg. 37-50.
  • “Unsettling Engagements in Moods and Little Women, or Learning to Love Louisa May Alcott.” Critical Insights: Little Women. Eds. Anne K. Philips and Gregory Eiselein. Ipswich, MA: Grey House Publishing / Salem Press, 2015. 174-88.
  • “The Year of the Child: Children’s Literature, Childhood Studies, and the Turn to Childism.” Essay-Review of Anna Mae Duane, The Children’s Table: Childhood Studies and the Humanities; Jodi Eichler-Levine, Suffer the Little Children: Uses of the Past in Jewish and African American Children’s Literature; Gary D. Schmidt, Making Americans: Children’s Literature from 1930 to 1960. American Literary History 27.2 (Summer 2015): 331-41.
  • "‘When the Cup Has Been Drained’: Addiction and Recovery in The Wind and the Willows.” Children’s Literature: Annual of the Children’s Literature Association and the Modern Language Association Division on Children’s Literature 42 (2014): 42-70.
  • “‘Lifted Moments’: Emily Dickinson, Hymn Revision, and the Revival Music Meme-Plex.” The Emily Dickinson Journal 23 (Spring 2014): 46-74.
  • Penrose in the Twenty-First Century.” Afterword to Mr. Penrose: The Journal of Penrose, Seaman by William Williams. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969; reprint, 2013. pp. 385-410.
  • “Canonicity and the American Public Library: The Case of American Women Writers.” Windows on the World—Analyzing Main Street Public Library Collections. Special volume edited by Wayne A. Wiegand. Library Trends 60.3 (Spring 2012). 706-28.
  • “Refusing to Write like Henry James: Women Reforming Realism in Fin de Siècle America.” European Journal of American Studies [Online] 2 (2011).
  • “‘By Invitation Only’: The American Library Association and the Women’s Library of the World’s Columbian Exposition.” Co-authored (equitable) with Wayne A. Wiegand. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 35-3 (Spring 2010): 699-722.
  • “Henry James Rides Again.” The Henry James Review 31.1 (Fall 2010): 218-31.
  • “The Europeans.” A Critical Companion to Henry James. Ed. Eric Haralson and Kendall Johnson. New York: Facts on File-Clearmark Books (2009), 74-82.
  • “What Daisy Knew: Reading Against Type in Daisy Miller: A Study.” A Companion to Henry James. Ed. Greg W. Zacharias. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008. 32-50.
  • “Social Reading, Social Work, and the Social Function of Literacy in Louisa May Alcott’s ‘May Flowers.’” Short Story Criticism 98 (May 2007; rpt. Cengage Learning, 2012). Ed. Jelena Krstovic. Gale Group. [Rpt. of chapter in Reading Women: Literary Figures and Cultural Icons from the Victorian Age to the Present. Ed. Janet Badia and Jennifer Phegley. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.]
  • "Louisa May Alcott, William T. Adams, and the Rise of Gender-Specific Series Books." The Lion and the Unicorn: A Critical Journal of Children’s Literature 25.1 (January 2001): 17–46.

  • “Charles Knight and Sir Francis Bond Head: Two Early Victorian Perspectives on Printing and the Allied Trades.” Victorian Periodicals Review 31.4 (Winter 1998): 369–86.
  • “The Making (and Remaking) of the Penny Magazine: An Electronic Edition of Charles Knight’s ‘The Commercial History of a Penny Magazine.’” Gutenberg Jahrbuch 1997(Gutenberg Institute–University of Mainz, 1997). Co-authored (equitable) with Laura K. Dickinson. 289–97.
  • “Revising Lives: Bernard Shaw and His Biographer.” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 17.4 (Fall 1994): 339–66.

Other Scholarship

  • “Reading over Pandemic Time.” The Vocation of the Educator in This Moment. Eds. Jennifer Maney and Melissa Shew. Marquette University, 2021. 

Public Scholarship

Honors and Awards

  •  Way-Klingler Teaching Enhancement Grant, 2016.

  • NEH grant (with Susan Hopwood and Angela Sorby), American Library Association, 2011.

  • Reese Fellowship in American Bibliography and the History of the Book in the Americas, Bibliographical Society of America, 2010.

  • Summer Faculty Fellowships, Marquette University, 2004, 2005, 2014.
  • Finalist, Society of Fellows Junior Fellowship, Harvard University
  • American Fellowship (Summer / Short-Term Research Publication Grant), American Association of University Women, 2002-2003.
  • Carnegie-Whitney Award (with Wayne Wiegand), American Library Association, 2002
  • Leon Edel Prize, The Henry James Review, 2001.
  • Houghton Mifflin Fellowship in Publishing History, Houghton Library, Harvard University, 2000- 2001.
  • P.E.O. Scholar Award, 1999.

Additional Information

Office Hours

Spring 2024

  • TuTh 2:00-3:30

Teaching Schedule

Spring 2024

  • 4715/101 TuTh 12:30-1:45 Johnston Hall 107
    • Children's Literature
  • 4988/101 Fri 9:00-10:30 Sensenbrenner Hall 104
    • Practicum in Literature and Language Arts

Faculty & Staff Directory


Department of English
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1217 W. Wisconsin Ave.
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(414) 288-7179

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