Sean Grass Headshot

Sean Grass

Department Chair

Department of English
College of Liberal Arts

Office Location

Sean Grass

Department Chair

Department of English
College of Liberal Arts


About Me

I joined the Department of English at RIT in January 2019, having previously been at Iowa State University and Texas Tech University. I write on and teach Victorian literature and culture, with particular emphases on the Victorian novel, Victorian commodity culture, the literary market, and the works of Charles Dickens. Having grown up the son of a mill worker in western Pennsylvania during the 1970s, when much heavy industry was disappearing, I have always been drawn to Dickens’s novel, which consistently reflect enormous concern for the laboring poor. As my understanding of those novels has matured, I have become increasingly interested in their engagement with not just questions of social class, urban poverty, and economic exploitation but also questions of economic production—how, that is, economic conditions shaped and continue to shape the development of English literature.

My Teaching

My aims in teaching are always twofold: 1) to guide students toward a greater ability to read texts critically, and 2) to help students understand the ways in which literary texts participate in much broader historical and cultural concerns. Reading and analyzing literary texts help students to cultivate their ability to examine “data,” so to speak, and articulate precisely what that data means. Nineteenth-century novels afford fantastic opportunities to develop those skills, besides also helping students to understand the long historical trajectories that shape our modern world.

Spring 2019

ENGL 275, Storytelling (Serial Fiction)

ENGL 418, Great Authors (Charles Dickens: Haunted Man)

My Research

My current book, which will appear from Cambridge University Press in late 2019, explores the rise of autobiography as a commercial genre during the early nineteenth century and the ways in which this new practice of writing and selling one’s identity created cultural anxieties about the intersection of identity and property. I will also publish two essays in 2019, one on violence in Victorian family magazines and another on Great Expectations, play, and trauma. I have published two other books (The Self in the Cell: Narrating the Victorian Prisoner[Routledge, 2003] and Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend: A Publishing History [Ashgate, 2014]) and several essays on writers from Dickens to Christina Rossetti to Wilkie Collins. I currently also serve as the Vice President of the Dickens Society and as an Executive Secretary for the North American Victorian Studies Association (NAVSA). 

Areas of Expertise

Select Scholarship

Invited Paper
Grass, Sean. "Recent Dickens Studies 2019: A Journal of the Plague Year." Dickens Studies Annual. (2021). Print.
Grass, Sean. "Dickens, the City, and the Prison." The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Urban Literary Studies. (2020). Web.
Journal Paper
Grass, Sean. "Revising Codes: Education, Empathy, and the Case for Bradley Headstone." Dickens Quarterly 37. 1 (2020): 29-46. Print.
Grass, Sean. "\Accounting for Taste: Very Hard Cash and Middle-Class Readership\." Victorian Periodicals Review 52. 3 (2019): 464-488. Print.
Full Length Book
Grass, Sean. The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative: Autobiography, Sensation, and the Literary Marketplace. 1st ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019. Print.

Currently Teaching

1 Credits
This course will introduce students to the field of English Studies and the kinds of reading, writing, and critical thinking practices central to the field today. English Studies, consolidated as a field in the 19th century in European and American Universities, has evolved well beyond its initial focus on English-language literatures, language practices, and socio-linguistic concerns while retaining its primary concern with literature, language-arts, linguistics, rhetorical practices, and their participation in broader national and global cultures and subcultures.
3 Credits
This course presents a study of British literature by engaging in critically informed analysis of texts that emerged from within the geography, history, and cultures that constitute the modern United Kingdom. This includes work by writers from all parts of the British Isles (England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland) and writers from Britain’s vast global empire. One of the goals of the class is to analyze and discuss the works in their respective socio-historical contexts, with a special focus on the ways in which individual works belong to a distinctly British literary tradition. Specific literary works studied will vary depending on the instructor. The course can be repeated up to 2 times, for 6 semester credit hours, as long as the topics are different.
3 Credits
A focused, in depth study and analysis of a selected topic in literary and/or cultural studies. Specific topics vary according to faculty assigned.

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