Lisa Hermsen Headshot

Lisa Hermsen

Caroline Werner Gannett Prof Humanities

Dean’s Office
College of Liberal Arts
Department of English
Professor

585-475-4553
Office Location

Lisa Hermsen

Caroline Werner Gannett Prof Humanities

Dean’s Office
College of Liberal Arts
Department of English
Professor

Education

BA, Briar Cliff University; MA, University of Missouri at Columbia; MA, Ph.D., Iowa State University

Bio

I am the current Carolyn Werner Gannett Chair in the Humanities and the past Chair of the English Department at RIT. I specialize in the rhetoric of science, technology, and medicine. My book, Manic Minds: Mania's Mad History and Its Neuro Future (Rutgers UP, 2011), argues that mania has never been stabilized as a modern medicalized disorder. The manifestation of 'mania' in American psychiatry has emerged fluid from pre-professional to professional psychiatry and now persists frenzied into the neuro-future. I also served as faculty co-director on a 3D Virtual Preservation of the Buffalo State Asylum–the Richardson Olmsted Complex–one of the largest and most important sites in New York state at the turn of the twentieth century and a national historic landmark today.

I am now serving as PI on a NEH Humanities Connections Grant to study “community” from a host of disciplinary perspectives: historical, geographical, literary, environmental and socioeconomic. Undergraduate students will gain a better understanding of how distinct communities have formed, changed and often retained a distinct sense of place amid shifting economic, political and technological forces. This course sequence will emphasize the critical importance of experiential learning. In this first delivery of the course sequence, we will build on the University’s long-standing tradition of community service, as well as faculty engagement with area communities. Students will ultimately contribute to an on-going digital archive that documents community, memory and place.

My latest research is with an extensive 19th century provincial English Printer’s Archive. The unique archive includes five volumes from William Townsend & Son, Printer, Bookbinder, and Account Book Manufacturer of Sheffield (U.K.). The volumes include a trade ledger, a price and estimate book, a works manual and business guide, an address book, and a library catalogue. William Townsend & Son was an important printer during the nineteenth century, of considerable reputation for letterpress printing of stationary and accounting books for commercial and industrial offices.

585-475-4553

Select Scholarship

Invited Keynote/Presentation
Hermsen, Lisa. "Hysteria." Meaningful Play. Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI. Oct. 2011. Conference Presentation.

Currently Teaching

ENGL-345
3 Credits
This course will study the changes in definitions, explanations, and depictions of madness as expressed in psychiatric texts, asylum records, novelists, cartoonists, artists, photographers, filmmakers–and patient narratives. Certainly, madness has assumed many names and forms: the sacred disease, frenzy, hysteria, mania, melancholy, neurosis, dementia, praecox, schizophrenia, phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder. Those afflicted have been admired, pitied, mocked, hidden from public view, imprisoned, restrained, operated on, hospitalized, counseled, analyzed, and medicated. The brain, particularly the disordered brain, has long been a source of interest. This course explores the brain from the history of madness. The course takes a humanist, rhetorical, and historicist approach to the question of madness within changing social institutions and popular discourse.
ENGL-210
3 Credits
Students will study literary and cultural texts selected from traditional literature to contemporary media and culture (including mythology, poetry, plays, novels, film, graphic novels, television, and digital literature). Students will analyze these texts from a variety of perspectives and become familiar with the history of debates about literature and/or culture as arenas of human experience. Individual sections will vary in their foci.

In the News

  • March 31, 2020

    Richard Newman and Lisa Hermsen.

    Podcast: Experiencing History Where it Happened  

    Intersections: The RIT Podcast, Ep. 34: Studying history is more than poring over textbooks and old documents. History Professor Richard Newman and humanities Professor Lisa Hermsen talk about place-based learning, which gets students into the community to experience where the history happened.