Melissa JenkinsMelissa Shields Jenkins

Associate Professor of English

Director of Core Literature, Department of English

Core Rotating Faculty, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Senior Faculty Fellow, Collins Residence Hall


Office: Tribble Hall C-112

Spring 2016 Office Hours: Tuesdays, 12:15-3:15, and by appointment




MA, PhD Harvard University

BA Wake Forest University

Areas of Interest

19th Century British Literature and Culture; History of the Novel; Gender Studies

Courses Taught at Wake Forest

Graduate Courses: ENG 760 Habits of Mind in Victorian Britain; ENG 743 Victorian Sensation

Major Courses: ENG 360 The Global Victorian; ENG 353 Nineteenth Century British Fiction; ENG301 Oscar Wilde; ENG266, Gateway to the Major II.

Core Courses: ENG 150 Science Fiction(s);ENG 190: The Art of Short Fiction; FYS100: Faith and Doubt

Writing Courses: WRI 111 Tales of Mystery and Terror; WRI 111 Animals Make Us Human: Service Learning Course

Current Book Project

The post-modern obsession with understanding the unconscious and accidental decisions that constitute a life is evidenced by bestselling titles such as Blink, How We Decide, The Drunkard’s Walk, Freakonomics, and The Power of Habit. Habits of Sympathy in Victorian Britain applies what we have come to know about habit, mastery, and the self into new contexts related to others. The project interrogates the limits of sympathy, and the relationship between sympathetic identification and narrative form. Part One, “Forms of Habit,” uncovers the tension between reading habits, generic expectations, and social agendas. Part Two, “Habits of Sympathy,” examines poetry and prose works by George Eliot, George Meredith, and Thomas Hardy that underline the tensions between sympathy and judgment.  

Selected Publications


Fatherhood, Authority, and British Reading Culture. Ashgate/Routledge, July 2014


‘This is a distinctly new kind of book on fatherhood: an innovative study of the troubled relations between real and fictional fathers and sons, and the extra-literary texts that shaped them. Juxtaposing J.S. Mill and Max Weber, Melissa Jenkins’s lively and provocative analysis tracks shifting notions of patriarchal authority from Gaskell to Gosse through engagement with conduct books and family prayers, palimpsests and science writing, to create an “idea of the father” perpetually under reconstruction.’
-Valerie Sanders, University of Hull, UK

“In each of these chapters, Jenkins’s central focus of analysis is an authorial career, which is one of the book’s great strengths…Jenkins manages both to illuminate individual works and to provide a sense of their dynamic coherence with one another.”
Journal of British Studies, April 2015

“a fresh interdisciplinary study that will interest scholars in both masculinity studies and gender studies.”
Review of English Studies, July 2015


“Global Victorians.” Forthcoming in edited collection Victorian Literature in the 21st Century: A Guide to Pedagogy, 2017.

“Masculinity.” Oxford Bibliographies in Victorian Literature. Ed. Juliet John. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. (forthcoming)

 “The Next Thing You Know, You’re Flying Among the Stars: Re-Mapping the City in African American Picture Books.” (forthcoming, ChLA Quarterly Special Issue, 2016)  

“Associationist Philosophy, Cognitive Literary Studies, and Objective-Subjective Habits of Mind.” Literature Compass 12.10 (2015): 538-547  

 ““A Long Private Letter’: Motherhood and Text in the Works of Elizabeth Gaskell.” In Motherhood Memoirs: Mothers Creating/Writing Lives, ed. Justine Dymond and Nicole Willey. Demeter Press, 2013. 64-84.

“Stamped in Hot Wax: George Meredith’s Narratives of Inheritance.” Victorian Literature and Culture 39 (2011): 525-543.

“You are ‘father,’ you know: Hardy’s Palimpsests.” Fathering in Victorian Fiction, ed. Natalie McKnight. Cambridge Scholars, 2011. 185-206

“‘The Poets are With Us’: Frederick Douglass and John Milton.” Modern Language Studies 38:2 (Winter 2009): 12-27.

“‘His Crime was a Thing Apart’: Elizabeth Gaskell Writes a Father’s Life.” Victorians Institute Journal, 36 (2008): 245-274.

“‘Was Ever Hero in this Fashion Won?’ Alternative Sexualities in the Novels of George Meredith.” Straight Writ Queer: Non-Normative Expressions of Heterosexuality in Literature, ed. Richard Fantina. Jefferson and London: McFarland, 2006. 124-133. 


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