Kelly Hager

Interim Dean of the Undergraduate Program
  • English
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(617) 521-2173

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  • Ph.D., English, University of California, Irvine
  • M.A., English, University of California, Irvine
  • B.A., Rice University

About Me

I've been at Simmons since 2001, teaching in the departments of English and Women's & Gender Studies, in the undergraduate Honors Program, and in the graduate programs in English, Children's Literature, and Gender and Cultural Studies. I was awarded the Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2006. I served as Director of the Graduate Program in Gender and Cultural Studies from 2003-2007, as interim Chair of the Department of Women's & Gender Studies in 2010-11, and as Chair of the Department of English from 2011-2014. Before coming to Simmons, I was Head Preceptor in the Expository Writing Program at Harvard and Lecturer and Mentor to new graduate student teachers in the English Department at Yale.

I co-chair the Victorian Literature and Culture Seminar at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, and I'm on the editorial board of The Lion and the Unicorn. I'm the author of Dickens and the Rise of Divorce: The Failed-Marriage Plot and the Novel Tradition (chosen by CHOICE as a highly recommended book), the co-author of the Instructor's Guide for the Norton Introduction to Literature, and I co-edited a special issue of Victorian Review on "Extending Families." I've also contributed invited pieces to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, the Oxford Handbook of Children's Literature, Keywords for Children's Literature, BRANCH (Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History), and The Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature (Wiley-Blackwell).

What I Teach

  • Victorian Literature and Culture
  • The English Novel from Victorians to Moderns
  • Specimens and Collections: Science in Victorian Literature
  • Victorian Children’s Lit
  • 19th c. U.S. Children’s Literature
  • From Alice to Eeyore: Favorites and Classics from the Golden Age of Children’s Literature
  • Roots of Feminism
  • Women in Literature
  • Approaches to Literature
  • Introduction to Theory
  • Stories about Reading


My current book project, “Novel Constructions,” brings together the fields of Victorian literature and children’s literature with the history of reading practices in a study of children’s literature’s power to shape its readers as intellectuals, healthy bodies, and (albeit in a normative fashion) sexually well-adjusted subjects.  It argues that nineteenth-century novels for young girls promote the literary through the topos of fictional reading and the preponderance of reading lists; that novel reading is represented in Victorian children’s literature as an activity that could combat the kind of morbid self-consciousness of self so feared during the period; and that a specific category of twentieth-century children’s novels (those that represent adolescence by inserting their juvenile heroes and heroines into the plots of the Brontës’ fictions) privileges and celebrates the therapeutic value of novel-reading, reclaiming the nineteenth-century’s formulation of fiction’s power to help the reader better understand her own emotions and aid in the formation of a healthy sense of sexual identity.  “Novel Constructions” thus considers how children’s literature forms ideas of physical, intellectual and psychosexual health, combining an argument about the somatic effects of reading with an argument about the value of participatory reading for adolescent girls and the several ways in which children’s literature participates in canon formation.