Assistant Professor; Director of the English Honors Program
Humanities Building 225A
(205) 975-3751

Research and Teaching Interests: Gender Studies, Women’s Literature, American Literature, The Novel

Margaret Jay Jessee. Office Hours: By appointment

  • BA, University of Tennessee, English/Minor in Psychology
  • MA, University of Tennessee, English
  • PhD, University of Arizona, English

I teach courses on composition, American literature, gender theory and women writers, and critical theory. I recently taught a course with a focus on the way women writers have used Speculative and Sci-Fi genres to present radical ideas about gender, race, and class. I have also taught courses on how women’s physical bodies are depicted and used in literature and courses on various types of theories for how to read texts. My courses encourage dynamic class discussions about important current and historical social issues along with close textual analyses of literature.

My research is primarily interested in issues of gender and their relationship to literary aesthetics. My current book project, Murderess to Doctress: The Affective Legacy of the Abortionist in Nineteenth-Century American Literature, analyses the way various types of novels capture an emotional response to women physicians in nineteenth-century America. My work uses aesthetic theories of terror, horror, and empathy as well as historical research on women doctors in America.

As the organizer of the Critical Theory Reading Group, I strive to involve faculty and students across multiple disciplines to engage in stimulating conversations about big ideas, something I foster in my courses, as well. Please email me for more information if you are interested in attending the theory group meetings. All students and faculty are welcome.

In my free time, I am a committed, if slow, trail runner and bike rider. I also enjoy long road trips with my husband and our beloved but hyper poodle, Stanley.

  • “Melodrama and Drama,” Nathaniel Hawthorne in Context. Ed. Monika Elbert. Cambridge University Press. (Under Contract and In Press for 2016 Publication)
  • ‘“Fumbling With the Key’ to Feminine Duality in Henry James’s Watch and Ward,” South Atlantic Review 79.1-2 (2015): 143-157.
  • “Veiling Ladies and Narrative Masquerade in The Blithedale Romance,” Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 40 (No. 1, 2014): 62-82.
  • “Trying it On: Narration and Masking in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence,” JML: Journal of Modern Literature 36 (No. 1, 2012): 37-52.
  • Post-1900 Special Topics: Women’s Science Fiction
  • Graduate Seminar on Major Authors: Henry James and Edith Wharton
  • Literary Theory and Criticism II: The Twentieth Century to the Present
  • Women’s Literature and Theory: Women’s Bodies of/and Literature
  • World Literature II—1660 to the Present
  • American Literature II—1865 to the Present
  • Critical Theory Reading Group