Renee Bergland

Professor
  • English

Education

  • Ph.D., English, Columbia University, New York, NY
  • B.A., St. John's College, Annapolis, MD

About Me

Renée Bergland is the Hazel Dick Leonard Research Professor of English at Simmons University. She teaches American Literature, Research and Writing, and Critical and Cultural Theory, and her courses tend to feature intersectional approaches to gender and race. She is the author of The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subjects (UPNE 2000) and Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science: An Astronomer Among the American Romantics (Beacon 2008). With Gary Williams, she edited Philosophies of Sex: Critical Essays on Julia Ward Howe’s Hermaphrodite (Ohio 2012). Her essays and reviews have appeared in American Literary HistoryESQSIGNSThe Nathaniel Hawthorne ReviewISISLegacy, and the Journal of American History, among others. 

From 2005 to 2015, Bergland held a research appointment in Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University. At present, she holds a research appointment as Scholar in Residence in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Dartmouth College.  She has received individual Fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and group fellowships from the Sloan Foundation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the United Kingdom.

Bergland is an Emily Dickinson scholar. Recently elected to the board of the Emily Dickinson International Society, she has served as the Book Review Editor for the EDIS Bulletin since 2014.  As Guest Editor, she is coordinating a special issue of Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Emily Dickinson and Others, scheduled for publication in Fall 2017. In 2009, she was awarded the EDIS Scholar in Amherst Award for archival research on her current book project, Planetary Poetics: Emily Dickinson and Literary Relativity.  Since 2001, Bergland has presented sixteen conference papers on Dickinson and astronomy. On top of her book reviews for the Bulletin, she has published two major essays on Dickinson: “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 34:1 (Autumn 2008); and “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 2008).

Bergland also has an extensive background in Science Studies.  Her biography of the astronomer Maria Mitchell grew out of a lifelong interest in the history of astronomy. As a student at St. John’s College, studying the Great Books, she built a Ptolemaic epicycle machine out of copper tubing and super balls.  In graduate school in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, her master’s thesis focused on relativity and modernism. 

Finally, Bergland is a feminist theorist with a particular interest in women’s history (literary and otherwise).  This interest is threaded through most of her published works, perhaps most explicitly in her essay collection, Philosophies of Sex (edited with Gary Williams).  Another book in progress, Sexing the Novel: Literary Genius from Hawthorne to Hemingway, will complement her previous book on the sexing of science. In addition to her regular teaching at Simmons, Bergland sometimes steps in to teach feminist theory at MIT (in the Graduate Consortium for Women’s Studies, GCWS) and at Dartmouth College. In Spring 2016, Bergland was a Faculty Fellow at the Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth, participating in a faculty seminar on Gender Matters: Feminist Ecologies and Materialisms.

What I Teach

American Literature, Research and Writing, and Critical and Cultural Theory.

Courses include: 

  • ENGL 138 - American Poetry
  • ENGL 161 - American Literature to the Civil War
  • ENGL 178 - Multicultural Themes in Modern American Literature
  • ENGL 312/512 - Classic American Writers
  • ENGL 316/516 - Native American Literature
  • ENGL 320/520 - American Women's Poetry
  • ENGL 328/528 - American Ghosts: the Cultural Politics of Haunting
  • ENGL 331/531 - Literary Boston
  • ENGL 390/590 - Seminar in Literary Scholarship
  • ENGL 404 - Proseminar

Professor Bergland also teaches in the Honors program and is part of PLAN faculty. 

Publications

Selected Publications

"A Damned Mob of Corinnes: Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Daughters of DeStaël." Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, forthcoming 2016.

"Women's Novels and the Gendering of Genius." Oxford History of the Novel in English, Vol. 5, The American Novel to 1870. Eds J. Gerald Kennedy and Leland S. Person (New York: Oxford University Press 2014) 449-46

The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subjects. University Press of New England, 2000.

Philosophies of Sex: Critical Essays on Julia Ward Howe's Hermaphrodite. Edited with Gary Williams (Columbus: Ohio State University Press 2012).

Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science: An Astronomer Among the American Romantics (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008).

Works in Progress

Planetary Poetics: Emily Dickinson and the Theory of Literary Relativity.
Planetary Poetics: Emily Dickinson and the Theory of Literary Relativity, brings the new formalism (exemplified by Caroline Levine and Jonathan Culler) into conversation with multiple iterations of planetary theory from critics including Wai Chee Dimock, Gayatri Spivak, Paul Giles, Paul Gilroy, Ursula Heise, Tim Morton, and Jedediah Purdy. I use Emily Dickinson's work to theorize planetary poetics, which I define in terms of elliptical, sometimes astronomical forms, shifting time/space perspectives, and materialist/environmentalist ontologies of the planet. Essays drawn from the manuscript have been published in Signs and the Blackwell's Companion to Emily Dickinson.

American Genius, Hawthorne to Hemingway: Men Writing in a Women's World.
I see my other book in progress, American Genius, Hawthorne to Hemingway: Men writing in a women's world, as more of a general audience book; the goal is to offer rigorous feminist literary history to a wide readership. I conducted much of the research for the genius book in Europe, since Italy and France were the settings for Hawthorne, James, and Hemingway's defining relationships with women of genius. The book reads four major figures—Hawthorne, Melville, James, and Hemingway—in the context of a transatlantic literary marketplace dominated by women authors and readers. Essays drawn from the manuscript can be found in the Nathaniel Hawthorne Review and the Oxford History of the Novel in English.

Selected Works and Activities

"Cold Stone: Sex and Sculpture in the Hermaphrodite," Philosophies of Sex: Critical Essays on Julia Ward Howe's Hermaphrodite, Eds. Renee Bergland and Gary Williams (Ohio State University Press 2012) 157-185.

"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 34:1 (Autumn 2008) 75-100.

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

"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).

The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subjects, Hanover: University Press of New England, 2000

Awards

  • AHRC (British Arts and Humanities Research Council) Research Network, 2009-2010
  • (AHRC Participants: Amherst College, University of Plymouth (UK) and University of Exeter (UK))
  • Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship for Faculty Career Flexibility, Simmons University, 2008-9
  • 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