Wesleyan portrait of Joel  Pfister

Joel Pfister

Olin Professor of English


Professor of English

Downey House, 294 High Street, 303

Professor, American Studies

Downey House, 294 High Street, 303


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

Joel Pfister

Joel Pfister is Olin Professor of English and American Studies (his previous appointment was Kenan Professor of the Humanities).  He has written 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 (Routledge, 2006); 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). Pfister 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 numerous journals, including AMERICAN LITERARY HISTORY, AMERICAN LITERATURE, AMERICAN QUARTERLY, JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES, COMPARATIVE AMERICAN STUDIES, YALE JOURNAL OF CRITICISM, NOVEL, LEVIATHAN, AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW, REVIEWS IN AMERICAN HISTORY, the JOURNAL OF ENGLISH AND GERMANIC PHILOLOGY, and the JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF THE BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES. He teaches a range of courses in American literature, American movies, and cultural analysis and critique. Pfister has received several fellowships, such as an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship, a Rockefeller fellowship (in residence at the Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio), and a Mellon fellowship, and has lectured in China, Japan, Israel, England, Ireland, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway, and Italy as well as the United States and Canada. Over the past decade or so he has served as chair of American Studies (twice) and chair of English. Pfister was a Visiting Professor of North American Studies in the John F. Kennedy Institute of North American Studies in the Graduate School in the Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany, in 2011 and co-taught a graduate seminar in Critical Theory while continuing his research. In July, 2012, he served as a Lecturer of American Studies on the faculty of 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, and taught Chinese and Tibetan college and university professors American literature-as-American Studies in Xi'an, China (based in Northwest University).  In Spring 2018 he taught graduate courses in American literature and culture as a Visiting Professor of Anglophone Studies at the Université de Caen Normandie in France. And in Spring 2019 Pfister will be a Visiting Professor of the Humanities at the Università degli Studi di Macerata on Italy's Adriatic coast and will teach one American Studies graduate course and conduct research on his book-in-progress. 

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Fall 2018: Tuesday, 1:30-3:30, Downey House 303


Fall 2018
AMST 315 - 01
Entertaining Social Change

ENGL 175F - 01
Staging America (FYS)