William Cain

Mary Jewett Gaiser Professor of English

Expert in nineteenth and early twentieth century American literature;  Shakespeare; and modernism in the arts.

Scholarly interests include nineteenth and early twentieth century American literature; modernism in the arts; African American literature; slavery and abolition; literary theory and criticism; Shakespeare.

Publications include a monograph on American literary and cultural criticism, 1900-1945, in The Cambridge History of American Literature, vol. 5 (2003). Professor Cain is a co-editor of the Norton Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism (1st ed., 2001; 2nd ed., 2010), and, with Sylvan Barnet, he has co-authored a number of books on literature and composition. He also has co-edited a 2-volume anthology of American Literature (1st ed., 2004; 2nd edition, 2013/14).

Other recent publications include essays on Ralph Ellison, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Shakespeare, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, and the painter Mark Rothko.


  • B.A., Tufts University
  • M.A., Johns Hopkins University
  • Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University

Current and upcoming courses

  • This course will survey Hemingway's literary career: his novels, including The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea; his brilliant short stories from In Our Time and other collections; and his Paris memoir, A Moveable Feast. We will give special attention to the young Hemingway, who survived serious wounds in World War I and who worked hard to establish himself as a writer in the 1920s when he was living in Paris with his wife and child. In addition, we will contextualize our discussion through film, painting, and photography. Our goals will be to understand Hemingway's extraordinary style -- its complexity, emotional power, and depth -- and his charismatic personality as it is displayed in both his life and his writing.