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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of English Language and Literature


Faculty and Staff Directory

Cynthia Davis

Professor
Associate Dean for Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Department of English Language and Literature

Phone Number: (803) 777-4532
Email: cjdavis@sc.edu
Office: Petigru 206; HUO 504

Education 

PhD in English Literature, Duke University, 1994
B.A., English Literature, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, 1986.

Areas of Specialization 

   U.S. literature, Civil War to World War I
   Women Writers / Gender Studies
   Medicine and literature
   Popular culture

Recently Taught Courses 

   American Literary Realism and Naturalism
   Sentimentalism
   Teaching Literature in College
   Stories of Suffering
   The American Bestseller, Past and Present
   Controversial Women Writers

Professional Accolades 

NATIONAL
   Fulbright Award, Senior Lectureship, University of Venice, Venice Italy, Spring 2011.
   National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers, 2001-2002.
   Schlesinger Library Research Support Grant, Radcliffe College, 1999-2000.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA
   College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, 2015-
   Provost Humanities Grant, 2015-17.
   Morrison Research Fellowship, English Department, Fall 2016.
   Pipeline to Academic Leadership Fellow, 2014-15.
   SEC Academic Leadership Development Program Fellow, 2013-14.
   Provost Research Award, Arts and Humanities, Fall 2012.
   Josephine Abney Award, Women’s Studies, Summer 2006.
   English Department Research Professor, Spring 2006.
   Carol Jones Carlisle Research Award, Women’s Studies, 2001.
   Mortarboard Society Excellence in Teaching Award, 2000.
   College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Research Grant, Summer 2000.
   English Department Summer Research Grant, 1999.
   Medical Humanities Course Development Grant, 1998-2000.
   Research and Productive Scholarship Grant, 1998-1999.
   English Department Teacher of the Year, 1995-1996.
   Professional Women on Campus Development Award, 1996.
   Research and Productive Scholarship Grant, 1995-1996.

Current Research Projects 

I’m currently writing a book on U.S. literary realism and pain. During the final decades of the nineteenth century, many privileged Americans pursued a painless ideal that entailed denying both the necessity of physical pain and any personal value in exposure to it. By the century’s turn, physical suffering had increasingly come to seem not just avoidable but loathsome, especially for members of the upper classes who could both afford and also supposedly needed insulation more because they were perceived as more alive to suffering than were their cruder peers. In short, to be civilized increasingly meant to possess the capacity to respond exquisitely to pain but the inclination and the option not to experience it. The U.S. literary realists examined in my study, however, resisted this contemporary aversion to pain. Invested for a number of reasons in depicting physical suffering, they embraced the concept of a heightened sensitivity to pain as an inevitable effect of the civilizing process and suggested to those inclined to shrink from physical suffering that continued exposure to it could potentially enhance refinement. Authors discussed in this study include Alice, Henry, and William James, William Dean Howells, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, W. E. B. Du Bois, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway.

Selected Publications 

BOOKS
   Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Biography, Stanford University Press, 2010. Selected by Choice as an “Outstanding Academic Title,”2010.
   Bodily and Narrative Forms: The Influence of Medicine on American Literature, 1845-1915, Stanford University Press, 2000.
   Women Writers in the United States: A Timeline of Literary, Cultural and Social History, co-authored with Kathryn West, Oxford University Press, 1996.

EDITED VOLUMES
   Charlotte Perkins Gilman And Her Contemporaries: Literary and Intellectual Contexts, co-edited with Denise D. Knight, University of Alabama Press, 2004.
   Approaches to Teaching Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Herland, co-edited with Denise D. Knight, MLA Publications, 2003.

SELECTED ARTICLES
   “'The Ache of the Actual': Pain and the Aesthetics of US Literary Realism,” American Literature, forthcoming Spring 2015.
   "'The World was Home for Me'": Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Sentimental Public Sphere," Arizona Quarterly, Spring 2010.
   “Contagion as Metaphor,” American Literary History, invited commentary for Special Issue on Contagion and Culture, December 2002.
   “The Doctor is In: Medical Insight, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Elsie Venner,” Nineteenth-Century Contexts,  2002.
   "Margaret Fuller, Body and Soul," American Literature, March 1999.

SELECTED RECENT CONFERENCE PANELS AND PAPERS
   “Crossing Paths, Parting Ways: Ella Wheeler Wilcox and Edith Wharton,” Society for the Study of American Women Writers International Conference, Bordeaux, France, June 2017.
   “’More Sick than Well’: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Women’s Health in Nineteenth-Century America,” invited talk for a symposium at The College of Physicians in Philadelphia, April 2016.
   “'Boot-Strap Lifting’: Reforming Religions in the Progressive Era.” C19, Penn State University, Pennsylvania, March 2016.
   "'A Hard Mistress': Willa Cather on Mary Baker Eddy," Society for the Study of American Writers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 2015.
   “Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-Paper: Life vs. Art,” invited talk, June 2015, University of Florida, in conjunction with an NIH/NLM exhibit on the “literature of prescription.”
   “The Stubborn Fraction: Twain, Religion, and Pain.” American Literature Association Symposium on God and the American Writer, San Antonio, Texas, February 2015.
   “Anesthetic Revelations: Unconscious Consciousness in Blood, James, and Dreiser.” C19, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, March 2014.
   “’The blind dread of physical pain’: Edith Wharton’s Twilight Sleep, Realism, and Cultural Critique,” Edith Wharton International Conference, Florence, Italy, June, 2012.
   Panelist, Roundtable on biography (invited), Society for the Study of American Women Writers Conference, Denver, Colorado, November 2012.
   Panelist, Roundtable on single-author scholarship (invited), Society for the Study of American Women Writers Conference, Denver, Colorado, November 2012.
   “Living Forward, Looking Backward: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Life Writing,” Presidential Theme Session, Modern Language Association, January 2011.
   Chair and Organizer, “Postbellum Sentimentalism(s)” panel, Society for the Study of American Women Writers Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 2009.
   “Books vs. Babies: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the Public Sphere, and Postbellum American Women’s Writing,” keynote address, European Association for American Studies Conference, Poznan, Poland, October 2007.