A.B., Harvard College; B.A., M.A., Trinity College (Cambridge); M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Yale University
Paul FisherProfessor of American Studies
Interdisciplinary scholar with focus on American literature; biographer of the James family; historian of the Belle Époque.
My doctoral thesis treated American literary expatriates of the art world of the Belle Époque and was the basis for my book, Artful Itineraries: European Art and American Careers in High Culture, 1865–1920. My research in American Studies has combined literature, art history, cultural history, and gender and sexuality studies. I often examine American internationalism and transnationalism, so my work is comparative as well as interdisciplinary. My most recent book, House of Wits: An Intimate Portrait of the James Family, looks at Henry, William, and Alice James in the light of social and cultural developments of their time as well as according to family dynamics underemphasized in previous accounts: mental illness, alcoholism, and sexuality. I am currently working on a study of John Singer Sargent and his patrons, focusing on the role of sexuality in the fin-de-siècle art world.
My teaching interests embrace 19th-century American literature and culture; poetry, especially Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson; transnationalism, expatriatism, and multiculturalism; biography, life stories, and memoir; American material culture; the American West; and gender and queer studies. Although recently American Studies has become my primary focus, I have also taught courses in the English Department and the Writing Program at Wellesley. In American Studies, I have recently taught an introduction to the interdisciplinary methods of American Studies; a multidisciplinary examination of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era; and a survey of queer literature and culture in the United States and beyond.
I'm a contributing member of several professional organizations, including the American Studies Association, and I have also presented my work on the Jameses in radio, television, print, and Web interviews in the United States, Britain, and Ireland.
As a dedicated internationalist, I’ve traveled to most of the countries the James and Sargent families visited and a few they didn’t. My fascination with languages has led me to study, among others, Greek, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Old French, Scots Gaelic, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Swedish.