Molly Robey


Associate Professor of English


Ph.D., Rice University, 2009 
M.A., Rice University, 2006
B.A., St. Mary’s College of Maryland, 2001

Courses Frequently Taught:
GW 100: Citizens of the World
ENGL 139: Freaks!
ENGL 255: Hip-Hop: A Literary Study
ENGL 280: Understanding Literature
ENGL 351: Manifest Destinies: American Literature to 1865
ENGL 352: The Real Thing: Realism, Naturalism, (Pre)Modernism in US Literature
ENGL 370: Slavery and the American Novel

 Select Publications and Presentations:

—“Islam and the College Girl: Three Vassar Girls Abroad ” Modern Language Association Annual Conference, Philadelphia, PA, January 5-8, 2017.
—“Excavating Ethiopia: Biblical Archaeology in Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood.” Studies in American Fiction 43, no. 2 (2016): 183-206.
—“Domesticating Palestine: Elizabeth Champney’s Three Vassar Girls in the Holy Land.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 35, no. 2 (Fall 2016): 365-394.—“Transdomesticity: (Inter)Sex and the College Girl, 1870-1890,” invited lecture, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, St. Mary’s City, MD, October 20, 2016.
—“Poe and Prophecy: Degeneration in the Holy Land and the House of Usher.” Gothic Studies 12, no. 2 (November 2010): 61-69.
—“Sacred Geographies: Religion and Race in Women’s Holy Land Writings.” American Literature 80, no. 3 (September 2008): 471-500. (Finalist for Foerster Prize for Best Essay in American Literature, 2008.

Research Interests:

My research interests include the Bible in U.S. culture, U.S. women’s writing, pre-1900 African American literature, and transnational American studies. I am currently working on a book project that examines the relationship between feminism and religion in U.S. literature and culture at the close of the nineteenth century. In general, the nineteenth century attracts me, I think, because it is such an anxious, uncertain period in American history. Americans struggled to define their nation in this period, and it was a struggle, among other things, to define the place of the United States in the world.

Personal and Professional:
I think the question I always have in the back of my mind reading any work of colonial, early or nineteenth-century American literature is: how has this text helped shape the world we live in today? How do we understand ourselves as Americans? One of my favorite public intellectuals, Sarah Vowel, writes inThe Wordy Shipmates that she is fascinated by the Puritans of the 1600s because their ideas continue to haunt American culture. I think this is my starting point generally, the assumption that early American and nineteenth-century texts contain the ghosts of the culture in which live. Whether or not we identify as “American,” we are surrounded by institutions and ideas that emerged in a particular space and time. I think it’s my job to help my students discover that many of the ideas they take for granted are neither natural nor fixed. I hope that by opening up American literature to my students, I can show them how complex the processes of identity are that have helped to mold them. I think when we look back to the relatively recent past (although my students would probably disagree that the nineteenth century is recent), we see that national identity in the United States has always been fractured and fragile.

When I’m not reading, writing, or grading, I spend time with my partner, daughter, and son. We do a lot of walking, cooking, and eating, and we spend much of our time exploring Bloomington-Normal’s many parks and playgrounds. When I get the time, I also enjoy drawing and printmaking.