Nancy Easterlin, Ph.D.

University Research Professor,
Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, and
Undergraduate CoodinatorEasterlin


Office: LA 291
Phone: 504-280-6384


Education: Ph.D., Temple University, 1991
M.A., University of Denver, 1983
B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1978

As an interdisciplinary scholar who has become a prominent advocate of cognitive and evolutionary approaches to literature over the past twenty-five years, Nancy Easterlin has addressed many of the key concerns raised by scholarship between the humanities and sciences. These include the foundation of knowledge, the genesis of meaning, and the determination of aesthetic value. In her recent book, A Biocultural Approach to Literary Theory and Interpretation (Johns Hopkins, Spring 2012), Easterlin demonstrates the utility of broad-based evolutionary and cognitive knowledge for a range of literary specializations, including new historicism, ecocriticism, cognitive criticism, and evolutionary criticism. Easterlin received a Guggenheim Fellowship for the 2008 calendar year in support of this book project. Her current ecocritical work explores the concept of place in literature as well as the value of the humanities in higher education.

Easterlin teaches, directs theses, and produces scholarship in British romanticism, prose fiction, literary criticism and theory, ecocriticism, and women's studies. Her courses in romanticism pair canonical male and female poets sharing thematic, aesthetic, political, and historical concerns. Her courses in fiction typically focus on the work of postcolonial, Commonwealth, and women writers; Tales Told and Retold, a special topics course, pairs nineteenth and twentieth century canonical works with recent retellings (e.g., Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea). Easterlin designed and teaches Sex, Power, and the Short Story, an interdisciplinary course that combines feminist theory, evolutionary research on sex differences, and short fiction. Literary Theory, a graduate-level course, provides a broad overview of developments since 1900, including recent developments in evolutionary and cognitive approaches. 

Selected Publications

Selected articles available for download at scholarworks@uno.


  • A Biocultural Approach to Literary Theory and Interpretation ( Johns Hopkins, spring 2012)
  • Wordsworth and the Question of “Romantic Religion” (Bucknell, 1996)
  • After Poststructuralism: Interdisciplinarity and Literary Theory, ed. with Barbara Riebling (Northwestern, 1993)

Special issues of journals

  • Guest editor, "Knowledge, Understanding, Well-Being: Cognitive Literary Studies," spec. issue of Poetics Today, forthcoming 2018
  • Guest editor, "Cognition in the Classroom," spec. issue of Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, 16.1, 2014
  • Special editor, twenty-fifth anniversary issue of Philosophy and Literature on cognitive and evolutionary approaches, 25.2, 2001

Selected articles

  • "Ecocriticism, Place Studies, and Colm Tóibín's 'The Long Winter': A Biocultural Perspective"; The Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology; ed. Hubert Zapf, Walter de Gruyter, Spring 2016, pp. 226-48
  • "Novelty in Cognition and Literature"; Oxford University Press Handbook on Cognitive Cultural Studies, ed. Lisa Zunshine,, Spring 2015, pp. 613-32
  • "Novelty, Canonicity, and Competing Simulations in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"; Cognition, Literature, and History, ed. Mark Bruhn and Don Wehrs. Routledge, Winter 2014, pp. 59-7
  • "The Functions of Literature and the Evolution of Extended Mind"; invited essay for "Use," special issue of New Literary History 44.4, Fall 2013, pp. 661-82
  • "From Reproductive Resource to Autonomous Individuality? Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre"; Evolution's Empress: Darwinian Perspectives on the Nature of Women, OUP, 2013
  • "Aesthetics and Ideology in Felicia Hemans's The Forest Sanctuary: A Biocultural Perspective"; Style 46.3 Fall 2012, pp. 461-78, spec. issue ed. Brett Cooke and Clint Machann
  • “Cognitive Ecocriticism: Human Wayfinding, Sociality, and Literary Interpretation”; Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies, ed. Lisa Zunshine, Johns Hopkins, 2010
  • “’Who Was It If It Wasn’t Me?’ The Problem of Orientation in Alice Munro’s ‘Trespasses’: A Cognitive Ecological Analysis”; Studies in the Literary Imagination 42.2., 2009
  • “How to Write the Great Darwinian Novel: Cognitive Predispositions, Cultural Complexity, and Aesthetic Evaluation”; Journal of Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology 3.1, 2005
  • “’Loving Ourselves Best of All’: Ecocriticism and the Adapted Mind”; Mosaic 37.3, 2004
  • “Hans Christian Anderson’s Fish out of Water”; Philosophy and Literature 25.2, 2001
  • “Voyages in the Verbal Universe: The Role of Speculation in Darwinian Literary Criticism”; Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 2.2, 2001
  • “Psychoanalysis and ‘The Discipline of Love’”; Philosophy and Literature 24.2, 2000
  • “Making Knowledge: Bioepistemology and the Foundations of Literary Theory”; Mosaic 32.1, 1999; reprinted in Theory’s Empire, ed. Daphne Patai and Will Corral, Columbia 2005
  • “Do Cognitive Predispositions Predict or Determine Literary Value Judgments? Narrativity, Plot, and Aesthetics”; in Biopoetics, ed. Brett Cooke and Fred Turner, Paragon House, 1999