Skip to Main Content

Melissa Pennell

Melissa Pennell is a Professor in the Department of English at UMass Lowell.
Melissa M PennellProfessor
  • College
    College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Department
  • Phone
    (978) 934-4198
  • Office
    O'Leary Library - 483
  • Email

Research Interests

19th & early 20th century American Literature, American Women Novelists, Mystery & Detective Fiction


  • BA: English and Sociology, College of William and Mary - Williamsburg, VA
  • MA: English, Brown University - Providence, RI
    Supporting Area: American Literature, British Literature
  • Ph D: English, Brown University - Providence, RI
    Supporting Area: American Literature (Colonial to Modern), American Regional Literature, British Literature (Neo-classical to Modern)


Melissa M. Pennell is a Professor of English. Her field of expertise is 19th and early 20th century American literature. She has secondary interests in mystery and detective fiction and in New England regional writers. Recently, she published Masterpieces of American Romantic Literature (Greenwood), an introductory critical text for students and general readers. She is also author of the Student Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne (Greenwood, 1999) and the Student Companion to Edith Wharton (Greenwood, 2003), as well as co-editor of American Literary Mentors (UP Florida, 1999). She has published numerous articles and reviews in a variety of journals and has served as a peer reviewer for The Edith Wharton Review and for Pedagogy. For the last several years she has been a contributor and content developer for the Hawthorne in Salem website and served on the editorial board for production of "The Literary Map of Massachusetts" through the Massachusetts Center for the Book. She is a consulting scholar at area museums and regularly delivers public lectures and workshops on American literature and culture.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Honors Program Faculty Mentor Award (2012) - University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa (National Leadership Honor Society) (2008)
  • Faculty Recognition Award (2002) - National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAA)
  • English Department Teaching Excellence Award (1998)
  • Inducted into Sigma Tau Delta (International English Honor Society) (1998)
  • Exemplary Faculty Volunteer (1994) - University of Massachusetts Lowell Office of Community Service

Selected Publications

  • Pennell, M.M. (2012) " Justice to Edith Wharton? Early Critical Responses," Cambridge U P pp. 93-102
  • Pennell, M.M. (2006) "Masterpieces of American Romantic Literature,"
  • Pennell, M.M. (2004) "Review of "Monuments and Memory: History and Representation in Lowell, Massachusetts" (review)," Biography 26:4 pp. 760-762
  • Pennell, M.M. (2003) "Student Companion to Edith Wharton," Greenwood Press
  • Pennell, M.M. (2003) "Review of The Life and Works of Betsy Chamerlain by Judith Ranta," The Women's Review of Books pp. 25-26
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999) "Alice Brown," ANB/Oxford U P
  • Goldman-Price, I.C., Pennell, M.M. (1999) "American Literary Mentors," U Press Florida
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999) "Herbert Dickinson Ward," ANB/Oxford U P
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999) "James Oppenheim," ANB/Oxford U P
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999) "Louis A. Godey," ANB/Oxford U P
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999) "Phoebe Atwood Taylor," ANB/Oxford U P
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999) "Sophia Hawthorne," ANB/Oxford U P
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999) "Student Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne," Greenwood Press
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999) "The Mentor's Charge," U Press Florida pp. 34-46
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999) "The Unfortunate Fall: Women and Genteel Poverty in the Fiction of Hawthorne and Freeman," UMass Press pp. 191-203
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999) "Thorne Smith," ANB/Oxford U P
  • Pennell, M.M. (1995) " Review of The Uncollected Short Stories of Mary Wilkins Freeman," American Literary Realism pp. 92-93
  • Pennell, M.M. (1994) "Through the Golden Gate: Madness and the Persephone Myth in Gertrude Atherton’s ‘The Foghorn’.," U Press Florida pp. 84-98
  • Pennell, M.M. (1991) " The Liberating Will: Freedom of Choice in the Fiction of Mary Wilkins Freeman," G. K. Hall pp. 207-221
  • Pennell, M.M. (1990) "A New Spiritual Biography - Domesticity and Sorority in the Fiction of Sarah Orne Jewett," Studies in American Fiction 18:2 pp. 193-206
  • Pennell, M.M. (1989) "Charlotte MacLeod," Salem Press pp. 1177-1183

Selected Presentations

  • Book Discussion: The Many Lives of Sherlock Holmes, June 2013
  • Library Talk: The Crime and Detective Fiction of Dennis Lehane, June 2013 - Merrimac, MA
  • Library Talk: Mystery and Detective Fiction: Traditions and Innovations, August 2012 - Hooksett, NH
  • Surveillance and the Dynamics of Power in Edith Wharton's The Old Maid - Edith Wharton in Florence Conference, June 2012
  • Library Talk: The History of Mystery and Detective Fiction, March 2012 - Amherst, NH
  • Book Discussion: Reinventing the Hard-Boiled Tradition, June 2011
  • Scandals, Scoundrels, and Spoils: Houses in the Fiction of Henry James with Dr. Marie Frank (Cultural Studies) - Sigma Tau Delta Forum, November 2010
  • Library Talk: Cooking Up Crime: Culinary Detective Fiction, October 2010 - N. Chelmsford
  • Library Talk: The Mystery Novels of Dennis Lehane, July 2010 - Tewksbury, MA
  • Book Discussion: The Legacy of Robert B. Parker, June 2010
  • Workshop: Nathaniel Hawthorne: His Life and Fiction - Seasonal Ranger Training Sessions, May 2010 - Concord, MA
  • Library Talk: The Mystery Novels of Dennis Lehane, March 2010 - Chelmsford, MA
  • Book Discussion: New England Mystery Novels, June 2009
  • Workshop: Teaching Research and Writing, February 2009
  • Book Discussion: March by Geraldine Brooks - Stevens Memorial Library, November 2008 - North Andover, MA
  • Book Discussion: Armchair Travel/Armchair Detection, June 2008
  • Lecture: Hawthorne, Salem, and the Seven Gables, July 2006 - Salem, MA
  • Book Discussion: Massachusetts Mysteries, June 2006
  • Book Discussion: Crime is a Laughing Matter: Detective Fiction and Humor, July 2005
  • To Live by the Clock and the Bell: Lowell's Female Operatives, 1830-1855 - Summer Conversation Series, July 2004 - Concord, MA
  • Book Discussion: Mysteries and History, June 2004
  • Hawthorne at 200: Teachers' Seminar, panel moderator - Hawthorne Bicentennial Celebration, June 2004 - Concord, MA
  • Lecture: Hawthorne as We See Him: The Evolution of Hawthorne Biography from Henry James to the Present, June 2004 - Minuteman National Park, Concord, MA
  • Whose House Shall Stand? Walden's 'Economy' in the Context of Women's Advice Literature - American Literature Association Conference, May 2004 - San Francisco, CA
  • Subverting the Subversive: Hawthorne's Containment of Female Character - Hawthorne and the Woman Question, March 2004 - Salem State College
  • Literature and Reform, workshops - Teaching American History Program, October 2003 - The Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA
  • Workshop: Lois Larcom, Boardinghouse Keeper , October 2003 - The Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA
  • Book Discussion: Art, Music, Museums and Murder, June 2003
  • Lecture: Not Just a Poor Little Rich Girl: Edith Wharton and American Fiction, October 2002
  • Book Discussion: New Directions in Mystery Fiction, June 2002
  • Social Capital and The Problem of Benevolence in Howells's Annie Kilburn - American Literature Association Conference, May 2002 - Long Beach, CA
  • Lecture: Mentors and Friends of Louisa May Alcott, April 2002 - Concord, MA
  • Elizabeth Peabody and Early Childhood Education - "Life is My College" Summer Conversation Series, July 2001 - Concord, MA
  • Friendship as a Source of Social Transformation in Louisa May Alcott's Fiction - Summer Conversation Series, July 2001 - Concord, MA
  • Book Discussion: Edith Wharton's Life and Writings, June 2001
  • Workshop: Lowell Mill Girls - Primary Source, May 2001 - The Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA
  • Lecture: Edith Wharton and 'Roman Fever', April 2001 - Salem, MA
  • Constructing and Using the NEH Hawthorne Web Site - NEMLA Conference, March 2001 - Hartford, CT
  • To bring her face to face with her people: Woman, Ownership, and Power in Wharton's Fruit of the Tree - Edith Wharton Society Conference, June 2000 - Newport
  • Duty's Child Revisited: Young Women in the Early Fiction of Sarah Orne Jewett - NEMLA Conference, April 2000 - Buffalo, NY
  • Book Discussion: Poetry and Nature, June 1999
  • Workshop: Responses to the Industrial Revolution, February 1999 - The Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA
  • Workshop: Keeper of the House - Lowell Women's History Conference, November 1998
  • Book Discussion: Four New England Poets, January 1998
  • Workshop: Women's Captivity Narratives, January 1998
  • Workshop: Anne Bradstreet: Windows into a 17th century Woman's Life, November 1997
  • Workshop: Literary Responses to the Industrial Revolution: Using Primary Sources, November 1997 - The Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA
  • Redefining Space and Reclaiming the Self in Alice Brown's 'Joint Owners in Spain' - New England Voices Conference, October 1997
  • Book Discussion: Dance Hall of the Dead, April 1997 - North Reading, MA
  • Lecture: Beyond Concord: Literary Influences and Inspirations for Louisa May Alcott, March 1997 - Concord, MA
  • Book Discussion: New England Diarists, July 1996
  • Lecture: Women in Mystery Fiction, May 1996 - Salem, MA
  • Book Discussion: Hillerman's Ghostway, March 1996 - North Andover, MA
  • Book Discussion: Tony Hillerman's Mysteries, March 1996
  • Book Discussion: Dorothy Sayers' The Nine Tailors, February 1996 - North Andover, MA
  • 'A Net Flung Wide': Mother Voices in Paule Marshall's Brown Girl, Brownstones - Women Writers of Color Conference, October 1995 - Ocean City, MD
  • Lecture: Being Boys and Girls: American Childhood in Little Women and Tom Sawyer, July 1995 - Concord
  • Mythic Transformations in Joyce Carol Oates' Black Water - NEMLA Conference, March 1995 - Boston, MA