Sean Grass Headshot

Sean Grass

Interim Chair

Department of English
College of Liberal Arts

Sean Grass

Interim Chair

Department of English
College of Liberal Arts

Bio

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

ENGL-275
3 Credits
Storytelling is one of the primary ways we make sense of the world, communicate, share human experiences, and entertain ourselves. This course introduces students to methods used by literary critics and creative writers. Reading stories and analyzing the basic elements of story, the course builds understanding of how stories work, demonstrates the importance of artistic strategies, to enable greater appreciation of the creative choices storytellers make as they craft and communicate their stories in a variety of mediums. The course will explore distinct storytelling modes – such as oral, written, visual, dramatic, digital, ASL, augmented or mixed-reality – and consider the contributions different genres, or kinds of storytelling make to these practices. It will also explore how stories circulate in a culture, or across cultures, and examines the dynamic interrelations between stories, audiences, and changing cultural or historical contexts. Students will read, analyze, discuss, compare, and creatively rewrite or remix stories in order to better understand the range of storytelling practices, how stories work on us as readers, and why they are so significant to human cognition and cultures.
ENGL-325H
3 Credits
A critical examination of themes, topics, theories and practices in a literary or writing studies area associated with existing courses in the English curriculum, or with a special topics area. The approach to this literary or writing studies topic will be specially geared to honors students and others who wish to participate in a more in-depth and rigorous exploration of a literary or writing set of topics.
ENGL-414
3 Credits
This course will explore a key theme or critical question in women's and gender studies as an introduction and line of inquiry into how and why women's and gender studies matter in the contemporary world and in our individual lives. Drawing from and reflecting on approaches to women's and gender studies from a variety of disciplines and cultures, we will use these theoretical lenses to read social, cultural, and artistic texts and cultural practices in a new light. How has women's and gender studies and the creative, activist and academic practices theorized in this multidisciplinary, global space, challenged gendered and racialized power structures in the past, in the present, and how might it transform its methods to confront current challenges?
WGST-414
3 Credits
This course will explore a key theme or critical question in women's and gender studies as an introduction and line of inquiry into how and why women's and gender studies matter in the contemporary world and in our individual lives. Drawing from and reflecting on approaches to women's and gender studies from a variety of disciplines and cultures, we will use these theoretical lenses to read social, cultural, and artistic texts and cultural practices in a new light. How has women's and gender studies and the creative, activist and academic practices theorized in this multidisciplinary, global space, challenged gendered and racialized power structures in the past, in the present, and how might it transform its methods to confront current challenges?

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