Department of English

James Emmett Ryan

James Emmett Ryan J.W. Liles Professor of English and Provost Liaison
9010 Haley Center
Download CV .pdf

Office Hours

  • Tuesday 10:00-11:00 am & by appointment
  • Thursday 10:00-11:00 am & by appointment


My primary fields are early American Literature and interdisciplinary American Studies. In particular, I study ways that American writers and expressive cultures have been shaped by transformative historical forces such as religion, public education, immigration, technology, and commercial media. Extended research into the evolving role of print media in the representation of religious life led to two of my books, Imaginary Friends: Representing Quakers in American Culture, 1650-1950 (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009) and Faithful Passages: American Catholicism in Literary Culture, 1844-1931 (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013). 

More recently, I have been developing a book project focused on self-education culture in 19th-century America, while continuing to write on topics such as early American publishing, the history of athletics, religious culture, contemporary American fiction, and literary representations of technology. My work has appeared in numerous scholarly journals, including American Literary History, American Quarterly, New England Quarterly, Journal of American Studies (UK), Book History, Religion & American Culture, Studies in American Fiction, Leviathan, Studies in Travel Writing, Quaker Studies, Early American Literature, and Journal of Modern Literature.

Representative Publications

  • “Fight Club 1888: Boxing, Class, and Literary Culture in John Boyle O’Reilly’s Boston.” Journal of American Studies [UK] 54.4 (October 2020): 706-736.
  • “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.
  • “Bridges Across Wire: Civic Engagement in the Humanities and the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Program,” co-authored with Kyes Stevens.  Creating Citizens: Liberal Arts, Civic Engagement, and the Land-Grant Tradition. Ed. Brigitta Brunner.  Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2016. Pp. 62-84.
  • “Friend on the Western Frontier: Charles Pancoast’s A Quaker Forty-Niner and the Problem of American Slavery.” Quakers and Abolition. Ed. Brycchan Carey and Geoffrey Plank. University of Illinois Press, 2014, pp. 149-164. Paperback edition, 2017.
  • “Cars of Destiny: Writing the Golden Age of Motoring.”  Studies in Travel Writing 17.2 (June 2013): 116-132.
  • 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.

Last Updated: October 27, 2020