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James Ryan

James Ryan

Jean W. Liles Professor of English


Provost Liaison


James Ryan

Contact Me

9010 Haley Center

Office Hours

Monday, Wednesday 9-10 am or by appointment

About Me

Jim Ryan's primary research fields are early American literature and interdisciplinary American studies. In particular, he studies ways that American writers and literary cultures have been shaped by transformative historical forces such as religion, politics, technology, and commercial media. A focus on the evolving role of print media in the representation of religious life led to his book, Imaginary Friends: Representing Quakers in American Culture, 1650-1950 (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009).

He recently completed a long-term project on the rise and development of American Roman Catholic literature and its adaptation by non-Catholic writers. His latest book, Faithful Passages: American Catholicism in Literary Culture, 1844-1931 (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013), examines the development of Catholic literary evangelism in the United States and also investigates the ways that non-Catholic modernist writers responded to and adapted the Catholic literary tradition.

Students working with Professor Ryan have written theses and dissertations on a wide range of subjects in early and contemporary American studies, including mesmerism and health in the work of Margaret Fuller, cinematic representations of the nuclear age, archetypal analysis of Henry Thoreau's writings, family and gender identity in 19th-century American bestsellers, queer theory applied to the novels of Henry James, Quaker discourse in 18th-century novels by Charles Brockden Brown, religion and family life in the Oneida perfectionist community, racial and gender identity in Southern fiction, scientific discourse among American transcendentalists, and representations of masculinity in contemporary graphic novels.

Research Interests

early American literature, interdisciplinary American studies


“To church in his bullfighting clothes’: Catholic Culture and Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon.”  Religion & Literature, 2023, forthcoming.

“John Dickinson and Public Education.” Essays on John Dickinson in Early Pennsylvania.  Ed. Jane E. Calvert. University of Delaware Press, 2023, forthcoming.

 “Norman Mailer’s Post-1980 Fiction.” Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Fiction, 1980-2020. Eds. Patrick O’Donnell, Lesley Larkin, and Stephen Burn.  Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2022 (online).

“America for German Immigrants: Thérèse von Jacob Robinson and Talvi’s The Exiles.Comparative American Studies, 18:4 (February 2022): 483-500.  doi: 10.1080/14775700.2022.2036562

“The Monochrome Chain Gang and Cool Hand Luke in 1967.” Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal 51.1 (2021): 44-56.

“The House of Harper: Melville’s Anti-Catholic Publisher.” Book History 23 (October 2020): 79-98. doi: 10.1353/bh.2020.0002

“Fight Club, 1880: Boxing, Class, and Literary Culture in John Boyle O’Reilly’s Boston.” Journal of American Studies [Cambridge University Press, UK], 54.4 (October 2020): 706-736.  doi: 10.1017/S0021875819000884.

“Catholic Publishing.” Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray (eds). Oxford History of Popular Print Culture (OHPPC). Vol. 5. U.S. Popular Print Culture to 1860. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. Pp. 879-906.

Faithful Passages: American Catholicism in Literary Culture, 1844-1931. University of Wisconsin Press, 2013.

Imaginary Friends: Representing Quakers in American Culture, 1650-1950.  University of Wisconsin Press, 2009.