Wesleyan portrait of Joel  Pfister

Joel Pfister

Olin Professor of English


Professor of English

Downey House, 294 High Street, 303

Chair, English

Downey House, 294 High Street, 303

Professor, American Studies

Downey House, 294 High Street, 303


Visit Professional Website

BA Columbia University
MA University of Sussex
MA University College, University of London
PHD Yale University

Joel Pfister

Joel Pfister is Olin Professor of English and American Studies (previously he was Kenan Professor of the Humanities) and teaches a range of courses on American literature, movies, and cultural analysis.  His six books are: THE PRODUCTION OF PERSONAL LIFE: CLASS, GENDER, AND THE PSYCHOLOGICAL IN HAWTHORNE'S FICTION (Stanford University Press, 1991); STAGING DEPTH: EUGENE O'NEILL AND THE POLITICS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISCOURSE (University of North Carolina Press, 1995, CHOICE "Best Academic Books of 1995" award); INDIVIDUALITY INCORPORATED: INDIANS AND THE MULTICULTURAL MODERN (Duke University Press, 2004); CRITIQUE FOR WHAT? CULTURAL STUDIES, AMERICAN STUDIES, LEFT STUDIES (Paradigm, 2006, Routledge, 2016); THE YALE INDIAN: THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ROE CLOUD (Duke University Press, 2009); and SURVEYORS OF CUSTOMS: AMERICAN LITERATURE AS CULTURAL ANALYSIS (Oxford University Press, 2016). He is also the co-editor of INVENTING THE PSYCHOLOGICAL: TOWARD A CULTURAL HISTORY OF EMOTIONAL LIFE IN AMERICA (Yale University Press, 1997).  And he has published articles or reviews in a wide range of journals, including AMERICAN QUARTERLY, JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES, COMPARATIVE AMERICAN STUDIES, AMERICAN LITERARY HISTORY, AMERICAN LITERATURE, YALE JOURNAL OF CRITICISM, NOVEL, LEVIATHAN, STUDIES IN LINGUISTICS AND LITERATURE, JOURNAL OF ENGLISH AND GERMANIC PHILOLOGY, AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW, REVIEWS IN AMERICAN HISTORY, JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF THE BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES, and TECHNOLOGY IN SOCIETY.  Pfister has received several fellowships, such as an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship, a Rockefeller fellowship (in residence at the Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio, Italy), and a Mellon fellowship.  Since 2011 he has held four visiting professorships in Europe and Asia: Visiting Professor of North American Studies at the John F. Kennedy Institute of North American Studies, Graduate School, Freie Universität, in Berlin, Germany; Lecturer of American Studies in the West-China Faculty Enhancement Program in American Studies (co-sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the China Association for the Study of American Literature, convened at Northwest University in Xi'an China); Visiting Professor of Anglophone Studies at the Université de Caen Normandie in France; and Visiting Professor of the Humanities at the Università degli Studi di Macerata in Italy. The diverse colleges, universities, and centers at which he has given invited lectures include Rothermere American Institute Oxford University, Cambridge University, Institute of U.S. Studies London University, King's College London University, York University, Nottingham University, Sussex University, University of Copenhagen, Odense University, Aarhus University, Université d'Orléans, Tel Aviv University, Nanjing University, Reitaku University, Centro Studi Americani (Rome), Institut für England- und Amerikastudien Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main, Futures of American Studies Institute Dartmouth College, Middlebury College, Colby College, University of Illinois Unit for Criticsm and Interpretive Theory (Urbana-Champaign), University of Wisconsin, Society of Fellows University of Chicago, Yale University Art Gallery, Yale University American Studies Program, Center for American Studies Columbia University, Society of Fellows in the Humanities Columbia University, University of Maryland (College Park), Baruch College CUNY, Commonwealth Center for the Study of American Culture College of William and Mary, and Willamette University. Over the past decade and a half he has served as chair of American Studies (twice), chair of English (twice), and Director of the Center for the Americas.  In 2020-21 he chaired the Compensation and Benefits Committee and served on the Faculty Executive Committee and Budget Priorities Committee.    

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Fall 2021: Monday, 6:30-8:30 PM (via ZOOM link)


Fall 2021
AMST 177 - 01
American Movies as AMST

Spring 2022
AMST 204 - 01
Saving America from Itself