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 McFarland Pennell, Professor of English, specializes in 19th and early 20th century American literature. She has secondary interests in mystery and detective fiction and in New England regional writers. Her book The Historian’s Scarlet Letter: Reading Hawthorne’s Masterpiece as Social and Cultural History was published in 2018 by Prager/ABC-Clio. She has also published Masterpieces of American Romantic Literature (Greenwood, 2006), an introductory critical text for students and general readers; the Student Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne (Greenwood, 1999) and the Student Companion to Edith Wharton (Greenwood, 2003). She co-edited a collection of essays, American Literary Mentors (UP Florida, 1999) with Irene Goldman-Price. She has published numerous book chapters in scholarly texts as well as articles and reviews in a variety of journals. She volunteers as a consulting scholar at area museums and regularly delivers public lectures and workshops on American literature and culture.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • English Department Teaching Award (2018)
  • 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)

Selected Publications

  • Hubler, A. (Kansas State University), Walls, L.D. (Notre Dame University), Pennell, M.M. (2019). "Roundtable: Teaching Little Women". Women's Studies, 48(4) 446-458.
  • Pennell, M.M. (2018). The Historian’s Scarlet Letter: Reading Hawthorne’s Masterpiece as Social and Cultural History . Praeger/ABC-CLIO
  • Pennell, M.M. (2018). “Hawthorne in Salem, at Bowdoin and in Concord” (pp. 386-395). Cambridge University Press
  • Pennell, M.M. (2018). “Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter, 1850” (pp. 248-265). DeGruyter
  • Pennell, M.M. (2012). "Justice to Edith Wharton? Early Critical Responses" (pp. 93-102). Cambridge U P
  • Pennell, M.M. (2006). Masterpieces of American Romantic Literature. Greenwood Press
  • Pennell, M.M. (2003). Student Companion to Edith Wharton. Greenwood Press
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999). "The Mentor's Charge" (pp. 34-46). U Press Florida
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999). "The Unfortunate Fall: Women and Genteel Poverty in the Fiction of Hawthorne and Freeman" (pp. 191-203). UMass Press
  • Goldman-Price, I.C., Pennell, M.M. (1999). American Literary Mentors. U Press Florida
  • Pennell, M.M. (1999). Student Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne. Greenwood Press

Selected Presentations

  • “Before the ‘Whisper Network’: Sedgwick’s A New-England Tale” - SSAWW Triennial Conference, November 2018 - Denver, CO
  • “From Discovery/Recovery to Public Humanities: Bringing the Work of American Women Writers into Public Consciousness” - SSAWW Triennial Conference, November 2018 - Denver, CO
  • Book Discussion: “North of the Border: Canadian Mystery and Detective Fiction” , February 2018
  • “The Burden of Guilt: New England Gothic and Mary Wilkins Freeman’s Treatment of the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria” - American Literature Association Conference, May 2017 - Boston, Massachusetts
  • Book Discussion: “Murderous Boston: Mystery and Detective Fiction” , January 2016 - Lowell, MA
  • Book Discussion: “Tough Molls and Gumshoes: Hardboiled Detective Fiction Then and Now” , January 2015 - Lowell, MA
  • Book Discussion: The Many Lives of Sherlock Holmes, January 2014
  • 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 (Art History) - 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
  • Library Talk: The Mystery Novels of Dennis Lehane, March 2010 - Chelmsford, 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