Skip to this page's content

Home » Undergraduate College » Admission » English » Faculty » Renée Bergland

Renée Bergland

Renée Bergland

Renée Bergland grew up in a variety of places, moving from New York City to Pennsylvania's Amish Country to Brookline, Massachusetts, with childhood sabbatical sojourns in Oxford, England and Melbourne, Australia. At fourteen, she headed off to boarding school in New Hampshire then went on to study classics at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland and Santa Fe, New Mexico. After college she lived in Santa Fe for two years, writing whatever she could — most significantly, she was the ghostwriter for an artist's autobiography and a copywriter for American Spirit tobacco.

Bergland earned her PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 1997. Working her way through, she taught at the University of the District of Columbia, Marymount University, the University of New Hampshire, Boston University and Dartmouth College, before coming to Simmons in 1999.

At Simmons, Bergland teaches a wide range of courses in nineteenth and twentieth-century American Literature. She is particularly interested in Native American Studies, Cultural Studies, and Gender Studies. She also teaches in the Graduate Consortium in Women's and Gender Studies, and holds a research appointment in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University. In 2001-2, Bergland was a Fulbright Professor of American Studies in Bergen, Norway. In 2006-7, she was a National Endowment for the Humanities "We The People" Fellow, and spent that year as a Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth College. She has been an active member of the New England American Studies Association (NEASA) for over a decade, and was president of NEASA in 2006.

Bergland has published essays about changing conceptions of sex and sexuality, Geronimo's prison story compared to the stories of Guantánamo Bay, and Emily Dickinson and the predator drone, among others. In addition to writing essays and reviewing books for scholarly journals (American Literature, American Literary History, Legacy, ESQ, etc.), she writes for newspapers including the Boston Globe, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

Bergland wrote The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subjects, which was published by the University Press of New England in 2000. Her most recent book, Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science, is a cultural biography of the nineteenth-century Nantucket astronomer (Beacon Press, 2008). She is co-editor, with Gary Williams of a collection of essays called Philosophies of Sex: Critical Essays on Julia Ward Howe's Hermaphrodite (in progress). Her next book, Emily Dickinson, Planetary Poet, will examine the global Emily Dickinson.


Like every cultural critic worth her salt, I am curious about everything. My research and writing tend to focus on nineteenth-century America, but in every piece I push against national and historical boundaries, trying to find (or make) connections and to think outside of disciplinary boxes. My first three monographs may seem to be on wildly different subjects: Native Americans, Women in Science, and Emily Dickinson. But there is a methodology to my madness. All of my work tends to span broad expanses of time, to offer slightly startling juxtapositions, to rely on close readings of both literary and historical texts, and to explicitly advocate a dialogic ethics of analysis. I keep trying to connect the past to the present. My writing always reflects my commitments to transnational, transhistorical, cross-cultural analysis. I believe that Geronimo's captivity at Fort Marion offers insight to the current captivities at Guantánamo Bay. A recent review essay on early American sex frames the scholarship in terms of current court decisions about homosexuality and gay marriage, while the article about Emily Dickinson's Civil War poetry discusses nineteenth-century balloon surveillance alongside twenty-first century satellite surveillance. Other essays juxtapose Shakespeare's poetry with Aztec poetry, and Dickinson and Melville's poems with the strange cultural history of women scientists in the nineteenth century and now.

Articles & Essays

"Julia Ward Howe," in The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Sixth Edition, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, forthcoming 2008).

"Urania's Inversion: Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, and the Strange History of Women Scientists in Nineteenth-Century America," (Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, forthcoming).

"'Hulia Protestante': Dreaming of Rome in Havana," intended for Philosophies of Sex: Critical Essays on Julia Ward Howe's Hermaphrodite, an essay collection I am editing with Gary Williams (in progress).

"From Fort Marion to Guantánamo Bay: The History and Hazards of the Ghost Metaphor," (Afterword) in Phantom Pasts, Indigenous Presence: Native Ghosts in North American Culture and History. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, forthcoming 2008.

"The Eagle's Eye: Emily Dickinson's View of Battle," in Blackwell's Companion to Emily Dickinson, Ed. Mary Loeffelholz and Martha Nell Smith (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, forthcoming 2007).

"The Native American Nineteenth Century: Rewriting the American Renaissance," (Special Issue Afterword) ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance 52:1-2 (Winter 2006) 141-154.

"Looking Back: Scholarship in Early American Sex," American Literary History, 17:1 (New York: Oxford University Press, Spring 2005) 148-159.

"Toltec Mirrors: Native Americans and Europeans in Each Other's Eyes," in Companion to the Literatures of Colonial America, Ed. Susan Castillo and Ivy Schweitzer (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 2005).

"Diseased States, Public Minds: Indian Ghosts in Early National Literature," in The Gothic Other: Racial and Social Constructions in the Literary Imagination, eds. Ruth Anolik and Douglas L. Howard (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2004).

"Roger Williams," in The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fourth and Fifth Editions, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001, 2005).

"The Puritan Eyeball, or, Sexing the Transcendent," in The Puritan Origins of American Sex, eds. Tracy Fessendon, Nicholas Radel, and Magdalena Zaborowska (New York: Routledge, 2000).

"Possession and Dispossession: Native American Ghosts and the Haunted National Imagination." (Dissertation: Columbia University, May 1997). Examiners: Robert A. Ferguson, Karl Kroeber, Barry O'Connell, Robert O'Meally, Priscilla Wald.

"Ripeness is All," Energeia, Winter 1987 (Senior Thesis: St. John's College, May 1986).

Conference Panels

Chair, "Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers' Responses to Darwin," (Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers Reading Group), ALA, May 26, 2006, Boston, MA.

Chair, "Representing Darkness: Race in the Eighteenth Century,"  NEASA, September 16, 2006, Portland, ME.

Chair, "Viewing AIDS through Different Cultural Lenses," NEASA, September 24, 2005, Worcester, MA.

Chair and Comment,  "Leslie Marmon Silko:  Rethinking Nation and Sovereignty," (Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures),  ALA,  May 26, 2005, Boston, MA.

Comment,  "Cultural Haunting as Historical Encounter: the Ethnohistory of the Uncanny," October 30, 2004, American Society of Ethnohistorians (ASE), Chicago, IL.

Moderator, "Rethinking Queer Theory," May 6, 2004 at Cultural Studies Association, Boston, MA.

Moderator, "Sex Cultures," May 5, 2004 at Cultural Studies Association, Boston, MA.

Moderator, "Persona: Text and Persona," (Highlighted Session) May 5, 2004 at Cultural Studies Association, Boston, MA.

Chair, "Contemporary Spirituality," April 27, 2003 at NEASA, Hartford, CT.

Chair, "Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers: The Short Story II," March 7, 2003 at NEMLA, Cambridge, MA.

Coordinator, "Perspectives on the Political: Nineteenth-Century American Women's Views of Democracy," December 30, 2002 at MLA, New York, NY.

Chair and Comment, "Old West, Global West: Genealogies of Indian Territory," November 17, 2002 at ASA, Houston, TX.

Chair, "Visualizing Space in Nineteenth-Century America," April 29, 2001 at NEASA, Manchester, NH.

Chair, "Cultural Institutions as Mechanisms for Ethnic Identity," April 29, 2000 at NEASA, Portland, ME.

Chair and Comment, "Romancing the Republic: Interracial Relations and the National Imaginary in Nineteenth-Century American Literature," Division on Nineteenth-Century American Literature, December 28, 1999 at MLA, Chicago, IL.

Chair, "Narrative and Heterotopia," April 30, 1999 at Narrative, Hanover, NH.

Chair, "The Law of Nations and the Origins of Empire," April 4, 1998 at ASECS, South Bend, IN.

Coordinator, "The Native American Eighteenth Century I and II," panels chaired by Colin Calloway and Barry O'Connell, December 13, 1997 at NEASECS, Boston, MA.

Chair, "Surfin' Safaris: Race, Gender, and the Narratives of Imperialism in Surf Culture," April 18, 1997 at MELUS, Honolulu, HI.

Conference Papers & Presentations

"Love Among the Corinnes," New England American Studies Association (NEASA), November 3, 2007, Providence, RI.

"Samson Occom's Great Quietness," Northeastern American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (NEASECS), October 26, 2007, Hanover, NH.

"'Hulia Protestante': Julia Ward Howe in Havana," to be presented at American Studies Association (ASA), October 12, 2007, Philadelphia, PA.

"Planetary Parallax: Emily Dickinson's Global Circumference," American Literature Association (ALA), May 25, 2007, Boston, MA.

"Teaching Students Research," Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, Dartmouth College, Jan 25, 2007, Hanover, NH.

"'After the Pleasure Party': Herman Melville's Uranian Inversions," MLA, December 29, 2006, Philadelphia, PA.

"Invisible Worlds: Cotton Mather, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Genealogy of the Black Sites," NEASA, September 16, 2006, Portland, ME.

"From Fort Marion to Guantánamo Bay: Ghost Detainees in Paranormal/Para-national Spaces," ASA, November 4, 2005, Washington, DC.

"Dickinson, Rich and Gluck: The Shifting Poetics of Standpoint Astronomy," NEASA, September 24, 2005, Worcester, MA.

"'Unsex me!': Julia Ward Howe Among the Transcendentalists," ALA,  May 28, 2005  Cambridge,  MA.

"The Logic of Loathing: Disembodiment from The Hermaphrodite to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, " April 1, 2005, Northeastern  Modern Language Association (NEMLA) Cambridge, MA.

"Executing Identity: Sexuality and Compound Vision" May 27, 2004, ALA, San Francisco, CA.

"Cracks in the American Self: Emily Dickinson and the Predator Drone" October 18, 2003, ASA, Hartford, CT.

"Sexuality and Star-Gazing:  Fayaway Meets Urania," June 4, 2003, Melville in the Pacific, Melville Society, Maui, HI.

"Ideal Battles: Julia Ward Howe's Republican Vision," May 24, 2003, ALA, Cambridge, MA.

"Double Visions: Alcott's 'Pair of Eyes'," March 7, 2003, NEMLA, Cambridge, MA.

"Ain't She a Woman?: Maria Mitchell and Sexual Spectacle," February 7, 2003, Southern American Studies Association, Tallahassee, FL.

"Emily Dickinson's View of Battle," December 30, 2002, MLA, New York, NY.

"The Electric Alcott: Science, Sexuality, and Gothic Vision," December 7, 2002, ALA, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

"Astronomy and Poetry," November 1, 2002, New England American Studies Association Secondary School Teacher's Workshop (co-sponsored by the University of New Hampshire), Manchester, NH.

"American Visions," June 6, 2002, Fulbright Foundation, Oslo, Norway.

"A Brave New World," February 14, 2002, Fulbright Seminar, Oslo, Norway.

"Patriarchy, Poetry, and the Woman with the Telescope," November 8, 2001, ASA, Washington, D.C.

"A Woman's Heart: The Art and Science of Female Feeling," September 21, 2001, American Studies Association of Norway (ASANOR), Bergen, Norway.

"Gazing at Heaven:  Emily Dickinson's Spiritual Astronomy," May 25, 2001, ALA, Boston, MA.

"The Law of the Look: Visual Relations as Contractual Relations from Bartleby to Birth of a Nation," October 13, 2000, ASA, Detroit, MI.

"Feminist Astronomy: Maria Mitchell's Spheres," June 20, 2000 at The Last of the Futures of American Studies Conference, Hanover, NH.

"Electrical Eyes:  Sex, Science and the 'Modern Magic' of Louisa May Alcott," October 30, 1999, ASA, Montreal, Canada.

"A Bird's Eye View of Hawaii: Isabella Bird's Negotiations with the Imperial Gaze," December 28, 1998, MLA, San Francisco, CA.

"Undressing Nationalism:  Herman Melville, Hiram Bingham, and the Literary Peepshow," December 28, 1998, MLA, San Francisco, CA.

"Peeping Tommo: Race, Gender and the Gaze in Typee," May 10, 1998, NEASA, Mystic, CT.

"Imagining Empire: The American Museum, 1787," April 5, 1998, ASECS, South Bend, IN.

"Light Mingled with Shadow: William Apess and the Hybrid Technology of Racial Spectacle," December 29, 1997, MLA, Toronto, Canada.

"Leslie Marmon Silko, Stephen King, and the Native American Nightmare," December 27, 1997, MLA, Toronto, Canada.

"'A Gazing Stocke': Samson Occom in the Public Eye," December 13, 1997, NEASECS, Boston, MA.

"The National Uncanny," August 12, 1997, The Futures of American Studies, Hanover, NH.

"Ghosts in the Earth: Native Americans and the Haunted Norwegian-American Imagination," June 24, 1997,  NAHA, Trondheim, Norway.

"'Modern Darkness': Miscegenation and Terror in Hobomok," April 4, 1997, NEMLA, Philadelphia, PA.

"William Apess and the Origins of Civil Disobedience," November 7, 1996,  M/MLA, Minneapolis, MN.

"The Return of the Oppressed: The Uncanny Savages of Edgar Huntly," November 3, 1996, EC/ASECS, Washington, D.C.

"Indian Spectralization in Freneau's Indian Burying Ground" September 28, 1996, NEASECS, Worcester, MA.

"Phantasmagorical History: The Spectral Revolutions of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Thomas Carlyle," September 27, 1996, NEASECS, Worcester, MA.

"Hawthorne's Haunted Manse," June 29, 1996, Nathaniel Hawthorne Society Conference, Salem, MA.

"Phantasmagories of Self: William Apess's Indian's Looking Glass for the White Man," April 28,1996, NEASA, Providence, RI.

"Catlin as Baedeker," April 11, 1992, Exploring the Great Plains,  Center for Great Plains Studies, Lincoln, NE.

Presentations - Invited Lectures

"Maria Mitchell and the Strange History of Women Scientists in Nineteenth-Century America," Maria Mitchell Association/Egan Maritime Foundation/Nantucket Historical Association, October 19, 2006, Nantucket, MA.

"Sex, Discipline, and the Nineteenth-Century Scientist," Barker Humanities Center, Harvard University, April 26, 2006, Cambridge, MA.

"Conflicted Unions: Sex, Science and Slavery in Civil War America,"  Boston Athenaeum Caleb Loring Jr. Fellow Presentation, September 9, 2005, Boston, MA.

"Nature, God, Identity: Emily Dickinson's Secrets," St. John's College Friday Evening Lecture,  September 24, 2004, Santa Fe, NM.

"Keywords: Transnational American Studies," Southern American Studies Association, Tallahassee, FL, February 8, 2003.

"In the Other's Eyes: On Power and Perception," at Indian's Indians:  Persistence and the Politics of Display, April 5, 2002, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

"The Woman with the Telescope: Nineteenth Century Visions," February 26, 2001, The Graduate Program in Gender/Cultural Studies Lecture Series, Simmons College.

"Americans in the Pacific: The Pacific in Americans," August 3, 1999, The Worlds of Friendship: Connecting Global Communities in The Early Republic, Summer Institute sponsored by Salem Maritime National Historic Site and Salem State College, Salem, MA.

"The Puritan Eye-Ball," May 25, 1999, Dartmouth Humanities Faculty Forum, Hanover, NH.

"Visionary Impacts: Imperialism and Pornography in Nineteenth-Century America," June 27, 1998 at The Futures of American Studies, Hanover, NH.

Teaching Areas & Topics

  • Early and Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture
  • Native American Studies
  • Women, Gender and Sexuality

Awards & Honors

  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2006-7
  • Fulbright Professor of American Studies (Norway), 2001-2
  • E. Geoffrey and Elizabeth Thayer Verney Fellow, Nantucket Historical Association, 2006
  • Caleb Loring, Jr. Fellow, Boston Athenaeum, 2005
  • Simmons College Fund for Research Awards, 2000, 2002, 2004
  • Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies Travel Grant, 1997


  • Research Appointment, Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard University
  • Visiting Scholar, English Department, Dartmouth College
  • Member: American Studies Association, Modern Language Association, New England American Studies Association, American Association of University Professors.


Doctor of Philosophy
Columbia University