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Steven Harthorn

Associate Professor of English
Honors Program Coordinator

Maddox Center




Degrees earned:
B.A. - Calvin College
M.A. & Ph.D. - University of Tennessee

Teaching at Williams since 2005

Why I enjoy teaching at Williams:
I enjoy getting to know students personally and being a part of their lives even after they leave Williams.  I also appreciate being a part of the Williams Family.  The people here are tolerant and loving, active and interesting.  They help me be a better person.

Areas of scholarship or expertise:
James Fenimore Cooper, Early American Literature, The Middle Ages, Literary History 

Hobbies and outside interests:
Running and cycling, collecting old books, cooking, playing bass guitar, watching Bollywood movies

Favorite books:
James Fenimore Cooper's novels, O. Henry's short stories, The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells, the Master and Commander series by Patrick O'Brian, The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois

Why I chose to double major in History and English:
I love being a tourist in the past, and both History and English put me in touch with a tremendous range of fascinating experiences, interesting ideas, and beautiful, profound forms of expression.  I think the two disciplines go together very well--you can't be a very good scholar of literature without knowing history, and you can't be a very good historian if you don't interpret well.

Hardest class I took in college:
I decided to take Latin my senior year of college and enjoyed it yet never felt quite sure that I knew what I was doing.  I suppose I could blame it on the fact that Latin isn't a language that is used conversationally, but it was probably just me.  Unsurprisingly, I've forgotten much of my Latin.

Most enjoyable classes I took in college:
Too many to mention!  But my freshman year I took two courses on the Middle Ages that exposed me to all sorts of strange and interesting ways in which medieval people looked at the world.  Those classes affected me in lasting ways by raising my curiosity and illustrating how necessary it is to check our own assumptions at the door if we wish to understand the past (and other people in general).

Since 2006 I have been the editor of the James Fenimore Cooper Society Newsletter, which comes out three times a year.  I regularly publish short articles and reviews there.  Some of my other recent activities include:

A book chapter: "The Pathfinder and Cooper's Return to Popular Literature," in Leather-Stocking Redux; Or, Old Essays, New Tales, edited by Jeffrey Walker (New York: AMS Press, 2011).
An article editing and introducing an unpublished manuscript by Cooper: "An Unfired Shot in the Literary Battle of Lake Erie: Cooper's Unpublished Reply to Alexander Slidell Mackenzie," in Literature in the Early American Republic 5 (2013).  

A presentation at the biennial James Fenimore Cooper Conference and Seminar, SUNY Oneonta, July 2013: "'Plunder,' 'Fixens,' and Bee Hunting: Cooper's Manuscript Notes for The Prairie." Publication forthcoming in James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art, no. 19.

I'm also at work on a scholarly edition of Cooper's last novel, The Ways of the Hour, which came out in 1850.  It's considered one of the first courtroom mystery novels, and it's full of Cooper's interesting observations on law and justice.  Cooper thought, for instance, that since suspects were to be considered innocent until proven guilty, jails where suspects were held to await trial should be much more comfortable places to stay than prisons, which housed convicted criminals. The young lady on trial in Cooper's story shocks everyone in town by having furniture, rugs, and even a harp brought into her jail cell so she can pass the time more pleasantly.

Professional activities:
I am an active member of the James Fenimore Cooper Society and have served on its board of directors since 2007 as Executive Director for Publications.  In 2007 I was awarded the Cooper Society's James F. Beard Award for Young Scholars.

I also serve as one of the faculty sponsors for our Williams Alpha Delta Pi chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, an international English honor society.  I often accompany students to the annual Sigma Tau Delta International Convention and serve as a faculty moderator there.