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Patricia Crain

Associate Professor of English

Ph.D. 1996 (English and Comparative Literature), Columbia University, M.Phil. 1991, M.A. Columbia University, B.A. Bennington College.

Office Address: 

244 Greene Street, room 213 New York, New York (US) 10003

Office Hours: 

Mondays (11:00am - 1:00pm), Wednesdays (5:00pm - 6:00pm)


(212) 998-8851


(212) 995-4019

Areas of Research/Interest: 

Nineteenth-century U.S. literature and culture; history of books and reading; literacy studies; childhood studies; critical pedagogy and civic engagement


Patricia Crain’s teaching, research, and writing center on nineteenth-century American literature and culture, on the history of print culture and literacy, on the history of childhood, and on critical pedagogy. In The Story of A: the Alphabetization of America from The New England Primer to The Scarlet Letter (Stanford, 2000; MLA first book prize), she was interested in how elementary reading practices socialized readers and shaped the literary narrative of the antebellum U.S. Her recent work explores the emergence of child readers as galvanizing cultural and literary figures in the nineteenth century, the genealogy of the key cultural concept “literacy” in the late nineteenth century, and the related (historical and current) moral panics concerning children and reading. Recent essays include “Spectral Literacy: The Case of Goody Two-Shoes” (in Childhood and Children’s Books in Early Modern Europe, 1550-1800), “New Histories of Literacy” (in The Blackwell Companion to Book History), and “Reading Childishly?: A Codicology of the Modern Self” (forthcoming) on the symbolic form of the codex. She teaches a variety of courses in nineteenth-century American literature, high and low, as well as in the history of books and reading. Recent graduate courses include The Nineteenth-Century American Tale and Readers and Reading in Early America.


Modern Language Association Prize for a First Book; American Antiquarian Society/National Endowment for Humanities Fellowship; Spencer Foundation Fellowship in the History of Education, Newberry Library; Gilder-Lehrman Institute Fellowship; McKnight Land-Grant Professorship, University of Minnesota

The Story of A: The Alphabetization of America from The New England Primer to The Scarlet Letter. Stanford University Press, 2000.

“Secret Lives of the 19th-Century Ballot.” Common-place.  9:1.  October 2008.

“New Histories of Literacy.”  The Blackwell Companion to the History of the Book.  Ed. Jonathon Rose and Simon Eliot. London: Blackwell, 2007.

“Spectral Literacy: The Case of Goody Two-Shoes.” Seen and Heard: the Place of the Child in Early Modern Europe 1550-1800. (Children’s Literature and Culture Series) Edited by Andrea Immel and Michael Witmore. New York: Routledge, 2005.

“Children of Media, Children as Media: Optical Telegraphs, Indian Pupils, and Joseph Lancaster’s ‘System’ for Cultural Replication.”  New Media, 1750-1914: Studies in Cultural Definition and Change. Ed. Lisa Gitelman and Geoffrey Pingree.  Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003

“Good News and Bad Books.” (Chapter on American Eighteenth-Century Communities of Print.) Perspectives in American Book History. Eds. Scott Casper,  Joanne Chaison, Jeff Groves. Amherst: U Massachusetts P, 2002.

Updated on 09/23/2016