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  • Jennifer Riddle Harding



Jennifer Riddle Harding 

Associate Professor of English 

Broadly speaking, I study and teach American literature and culture. Zooming in a little more closely, my specialties are figurative language, American short fiction, and cognitive approaches to literary narrative.  I love to pursue interdisciplinary questions in my research and teaching, and teach courses affiliated with the interdisciplinary programs in American Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, Mind and Language, and Professional Writing. I am also a member of the steering committees for the American Studies, Mind and Language, and Professional Writing programs.   



2004.  Ph.D., English Language and Literature, University of Maryland (College Park, MD; dissertation directed by Mark Turner)

2000.  M.A., English Language and Literature, concentration in Writing and Rhetoric, University of Maryland (College Park, MD)

1996.  B.A., English, Lafayette College (Easton, PA)

1996.  B.S., Psychology, Lafayette College (Easton, PA)




2015 "Women in Chesnutt's Short Fiction."  Accepted chapter of Approaches to Teaching Charles W. Chesnutt, forthcoming from MLA Publications. 

2014 "Reader-Response Criticism and Stylistics." A chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Stylistics. Ed. Michael Burke. London: Routledge, 68-84.

2013  "Violence Then, Violence Now." Pittsburgh Post Gazette 27 Aug. 2013: B-7.  Read this article.

2013 "Presidential Washington" (with W. Thomas Mainwaring).  A photo and narrative walking tour of fifteen Presidential visits to Washington, Pennsylvania. Available at Washington County Historical Society.

2012 "Narrating the Family in Charles W. Chesnutt's 'Her Virginia Mammy'." Journal of Narrative Theory (special issue "Decolonizing Narrative Theory") 42.3: 309-331. 

2012 "Teaching in a Wikipedia World." Pittsburgh Post Gazette 16 Dec. 2012: B1+.Read this article.

2012 "Metaphor, Cognitive Distance, and Framed Narratives in Charles Chesnutt's 'Dave's Neckliss'." Conceptual Blending and the Study of Narrative. Ed. Ralf Schneider and Marcus Hartner. Boston: de Gruyter, 229-251.

2011  “Hallowed Ground.”  Pittsburgh Post Gazette 12 Sept. 2011. Read this article.

2011 "Democracy on Flight 93."  Pittsburgh Post Gazette 2 July 2011. Read this article.

2011 "He Had Never Written a Word of That: Regret and Counterfactuals in Hemingway's 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro'." The Hemingway Review 30.2, 21-35.

2009. "Switching Places."  Pittsburgh Post Gazette 21 June 2009: G1+.Read this article.

2009. "Malia, Sasha, and Harriet."  Pittsburgh Post Gazette 19 April 2009: G1+. Read this article.

2008. "A Mind Enslaved?: The Interaction of Metaphor, Cognitive Distance, and Narrative Framing in Chesnutt's 'Dave's Neckliss'." Style 42.4, 425-447.  

2007. "Extending the Classroom Space: Wikis, Online Discussions, and Short Fiction."  Eureka Studies in Teaching Short Fiction 8.1, 131-138. 

2007. "Evaluative Stance and Counterfactuals in Language and Literature." Language and Literature 16.3, 263-280. [Winner of the PALA Prize 2007]

2005. "On Simile" (with Michael Israel & Vera Tobin).  Language, Culture and Mind. Ed. Suzanne Kemmer and Michel Achard. Stanford: CSLI Publications, 123-135.

2003. "Gagged Petitions and Unanswered Prayers: James M. Whitfield's Anxious America." College Language Association Journal 47:2, 175-192.

1998. "Back (or Forward?) to the Future: Understanding Time as Movement Expressions" (with Matthew McGlone). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Memory, Learning and Cognition, 24:8, 1211-1223.

Current Projects

I am currently completing a manuscript for a book called Similes, Puns, and Counterfactuals in Literary Narrative.  The book has been contracted by Routledge for completion in 2016 and publication in 2017.

During the spring semester 2017, I'll be teaching at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic as a Fulbright teaching scholar.

Recent Outreach, Collaboration, and Awards

In the summer of 2015, I gave a plenary lecture at the annual meeting of the Poetics and Linguistics Association at the University of Kent in England. In recent years, I have presented papers at the annual conference of the Modern Language Association (2013), the Midwest Modern Language Association (2012), International Society for the Study of Narrative (2014, 2010), and Poetics and Linguistics Association (2013, 2011, 2009). In the past few years, I have also made presentations at conferences sponsored by the Northeast Modern Language Association, the American Literature Association, the International Cognitive Linguistics Association, the College Language Association, and the Linguistics Society of America. 

Recently, I was part of a team of five faculty members who designed a new interdisciplinary program in Mind and Language, which will be available to students in the fall of 2016. With another group of five faculty members, I helped design an American Studies program in 2014; our team was awarded a Mellon Seminar Grant.

In the spring of 2013,  I coordinated the plans for a one-day symposium on American realist author Rebecca Harding Davis.  Davis was born in Washington's historic Bradford House and graduated as valedictorian of the Washington Female Seminary; the Seminary's former site is located on the Washington & Jefferson campus. The symposium, a special issue of the Washington & Jefferson journal Topic, and a formal dedication ceremony celebrated the installation of a new state historical marker for Rebecca Harding Davis in Washington, PA. It is the first state historical marker dedicated to a woman in Washington County, PA!  

In June 2012, I attended a seminar on slave narratives at Yale University taught by historian David Blight. In the summer of 2010, I participated in a one week seminar for professors of literature, "Five by Five: The Short Story as Art and Artifact," directed by Professor Louis Menand; the seminar was one of the Summer Institutes in Literary Studies held at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina. I also received a Kenneth M. Mason, Sr. Summer Grant for Faculty Research from Washington & Jefferson College, which helped me write the article "Narrating the Family in Charles W. Chesnutt's 'Her Virginia Mammy'."  These experiences have also aided my preparation in courses on American Literature, African American Women, and the American Short Story. 

I was selected to participate in one of the National Endowment for the Humanities' summer seminars in 2008.  I studied narrative theory and ethics with other professors for six weeks under the direction of Professor James Phelan at Ohio State University.  From this experience, I was able to develop the course Reading Fiction (ENG 250).

My article "Evaluative Stance and Counterfactuals in Language and Literature" received the Poetics and Linguistic Association Prize in 2007, which is awarded annually to the best article appearing in the journal Language and Literature by a newcomer to the field.   

Courses and Service

In my courses, I challenge students to read closely, think critically, research carefully, and write clearly. My students learn to make creative and apt connections between literature, ideas, and culture. 

I have taught the following courses at W & J:

  • First Year Seminar: The American Presidency in Fact, Fiction, and Film (FYS199)
  • Composition: The Rhetoric of Race in America (ENG 111; ENG 112)
  • Introduction to Literature (ENG 190)
  • Introduction to Professional Writing (ENG 201)
  • Plantation Women in Fact, Fiction, and Film (ENG 214)
  • Reading Fiction (ENG 250)
  • Literature and Consciousness (ENG 228)
  • American Literature beginnings - 1865 (ENG 265)
  • American Literature 1865 - present (ENG 266)
  • Approaches to Language (ENG 281/MBB 281/LAN 281), a team-taught intersession course
  • Literary Investigations (ENG 290)
  • Advanced Professional Writing: Writing With and About Technology (ENG 301)
  • American Short Fiction (ENG 350)
  • African American Women (ENG 343)
  • Senior Capstone Seminar (ENG 400)

I have served as the chair of the Curriculum and Program Committee (2013 - 2015), coordinator of the interdisciplinary Professional Writing program (2007 - 2015), advisor to the Green House (a theme house devoted to sustainable living), a member of the Sustainability Committee and Faculty Development Committee, and advisor to many English majors and other students.


In my spare time I like to travel (especially "nerdcations" that take me to historical sites and authors' homes) and spend time with my family. Since 2006, I have lived in a 130-year-old house near the Washington & Jefferson campus with my husband and two sons.  I am on the boards of the Washington County Historical Society and Washington's Main Street Farmers Market, where my contributions include writing and editing grant proposals.