Lisa Hermsen Headshot

Lisa Hermsen

Caroline Werner Gannett Prof Humanities
Dean’s Office
College of Liberal Arts

585-475-4553
Office Location

Lisa Hermsen

Caroline Werner Gannett Prof Humanities
Dean’s Office
College of Liberal Arts

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

Currently Teaching

ENGL-322
3 Credits
The course uses both literature and geography, artful writing and creative mapping, to explore the art of storytelling in both fictional and real places. From Sherlock Holmes’s 221B Baker St. London to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, geography is more than an artistic theme, and maps are more than creative illustrations. We will read literature that uses spatial dimensions not only to indicate a destination and point of origin, but to create place–spectacular stories from the Iowa plains to rust belt cities to the networked future. We will also navigate a specific geographical space, telling numerous narrative stories about its pavement and is inhabitants. Through community-based research, students will explore a Rochester community, story-mapping its complex histories, social networks, and contemporary environments. Using literary geography, students will integrate their writing into a final mosaic project–a collaborative digital community map.
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.

Select Scholarship

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