Marjorie Pryse

Marjorie Pryse, ProfessorPh.D., University of California, Santa Cruz

American Literature and Feminist Theory

Humanities 322

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)


Like many academic women of my generation, graduate students in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I discovered "consciousness-raising" and feminism at the same time that I was passing doctoral exams and developing a dissertation topic. Although I had not been able to study either women writers or American literature as a graduate student (neither at that time were considered worth serious scholarship in most graduate schools of English), it seemed to me that the feelings I had had since my earliest memory of having been "marked" by being an intellectual woman also characterized fiction by some of the classic writers in American literature. I decided to write a dissertation, which I later published as a book, in which I explored the relationship between what William Faulkner called "the mark" (or social stigma) and "the knowledge" (the visionary understanding that marginalized persons sometimes achieve), and that seemed to characterize the social focus of the American writer, at least in novels by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Faulkner, and Ralph Ellison. The suppressed and unwritten text of the book was that it characterized my own condition as well, as a woman literary critic unable, yet, to imagine turning my knowledge to the service of women writers themselves.

That "the mark" leads to "the knowledge" has in a way characterized my intellectual concerns ever since--both in the development of my interests in feminist literary criticism in the late 1970s and early 1980s at the University of Tennessee and my participation in the collective effort to reprint significant texts by nineteenth-century American women writers; then later in my choice to leave teaching for awhile and earn a M.S.W. in psychoanalytic social work practice; still later in my subsequent return to teaching and the academic world through five years serving as Coordinator of the Curriculum Inclusion Project and Professor of Women's Studies at SUNY-College at Plattsburgh before joining the English and Women's Studies faculties at University at Albany in 1995. "The mark and the knowledge" also explains my interest in feminist standpoint theory, in which the social conditions of women and other oppressed people may be understood as creating the potential for a particular way of knowing that has been termed "epistemic privilege."

In the literature classroom I work across disciplinary lines, bringing feminist, social, cultural, historical, and theoretical contexts to bear on students' understanding of literary texts; and in courses in Women's Studies and feminist theory, I introduce students to literary works, urging an affective as well as an intellectual and theoretical understanding of women's condition, both in the U.S. and in an emerging global feminism. Four years of training and practice in an object-relations based, psychosocial model of listening has altered my pedagogy and increased my interest in teaching the "whole" student within a context of teacher-student partnering in the classroom. I am interested in articulating a methodology for Women's Studies that identifies a critical cross-cultural interdisciplinarity as the particularly situated characteristic of Women's Studies in the new configuration of disciplines in the 21st-century university. My ongoing teaching and research interests reflect all of the above, and continue to focus, in literary and cultural studies, on the work of American women regionalist writers, particularly Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary Wilkins Freeman, and Mary Austin.

I have served as President of the National Women's Studies Association (1995-96), completed a three-year term on the Editorial Board for the journal American Literature (1996-99), and served as Chair of the NWSA Task Force on Faculty Roles and Rewards, 1998-99, that drafted the statement, "Defining Women's Studies Scholarship," available at


M.S.W., Clinical Practice. State University of New York, Albany (1988)

Ph.D., Literature. University of California, Santa Cruz (1973)

M.A., Literature. University of California, Santa Cruz (1969)

B.A., English. Ohio State University (1968)


WSS 220 Introduction to Feminist Theory

WSS 308 Global Perspectives on Women

WSS 450 Literature of Feminism

ENG 210 Introduction to Literary Studies

ENG 353Q William Faulkner

ENG 354 Jewett and Cather

ENG 366/ WSS 366 African American Writers

ENG 432 Colonial American Literature to 1820

ENG 434 American Literature 1865-1920


WSS 550 Literature of Feminism

WSS 565 Feminist Theory

WSS 590 Research Seminar

WSS 798Q Feminist Standpoint Theory

ENG 581 Realism, Regionalism, and Naturalism: Writing Gender, Race, and Empire in the Late 19th-Early 20th Century U.S.

ENG 680 Problems in Period and Canon: The Problem of Realism

ENG 681 Authors and Critics: 20th Century U.S. Writing

ENG 684 Seminar: William Faulkner

ENG 685 Seminar: Sexual Modernism

ENG 685R Seminar: Literature of/and Feminism

ENG 700 History of English Studies (Textual Practices I)

ENG 703 Gender, Race and Class in English Studies

Selected Articles/Chapters

“The One Who Attends.” Teaching Writing: Landmarks and Horizons. Eds. Christina Russell McDonald and Robert L. McDonald. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois UP, 2002. 268-284.

“The Business of English.” The Relevance of English. Eds. Robert Yagelski and Scott Leonard. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2002. 105-126.

"The Death of Paradigm Hope, the End of Paradigm Guilt, and the Future of (Research in) Composition." Composition in the 21st Century: Crisis and Change. Eds. Donald Daiker, Edward White, and Lynn Z. Bloom. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1996. 194-207.

"Upper-Division Assessment and the Postsecondary Development of Writing Abilities." The Practices and Politics of Assessment in Writing. Eds. Edward M. White, William D. Lutz, and Sandra Kamusikiri. New York: MLA, 1996. 148-57.

"Revisiting 'The Idea of a Writing Center.'" The Writing Center Journal 15.1 (Fall 1994): 7-19.

"On Book Reviews in Rhetoric and Composition." Rhetoric Review 10.2 (Spring 1992): 348-362.

“The Idea of a Writing Center." College English 46.5 (1984): 433-46.