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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.  I am the director of W&J's First Year Seminar program, and teach courses affiliated with interdisciplinary programs in American Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, Mind and Language, and Professional Writing.



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)


2017 "Women in Chesnutt's Short Fiction: Canons, Connections, Classrooms."  Approaches to Teaching the Works of Charles W. Chesnutt.  Ed. Susanna Ashton and William J. Hardwig. MLA Publications.  [This collection won the Sylvia Lyons Render Award for outstanding Chesnutt scholarship] Order this book.

2017 Similes, Puns, and Counterfactuals in Literary Narrative.  Studies in Rhetoric and Stylistics monograph series.  Routledge. Order this book.

2017.  "The Poetics of Hamilton."  Babel: the Language Magazine.  Issue 19: 10-15. View the site for this magazine.

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

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. Download this walking tour.

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. 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

My book project Similes, Puns, and Counterfactuals in Literary Narrative was recently published by Routledge. What's next?  I plan to continue my work on figurative language by using my models for similes, puns, and counterfactuals to examine specific texts and authors.  I also hope to start new work in an area I have spent years postponing as my "next project" – the study of letters written by American women in the colonial era.

Recent Outreach, Collaboration, and Awards

I am pleased to be a member of the Mellon fellow team, a grant-funded group at W&J studying 21st century learners, high impact teaching, and diversity and inclusion.  So far the Mellon fellows have brought several speakers to campus, implemented innovative teaching strategies, and developed opportunities for professors to work together on classroom strategies. Our work spans the 2016 - 2018 academic years and has a special focus on opportunities to enhance the First Year Seminar program.

I spent the spring semester 2017 teaching at Charles University in Prague as a Fulbright scholar; I taught two classes on American literature and lectured on figurative language in several universities throughout the Czech Republic and Germany.  

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 Poetics and Linguistics Association (2017, 2016, 2013, 2011, 2009), the Northeast Modern Language Association (2016), the International Society for the Study of Narrative (2014, 2010), and the Modern Language Association (2013).

In 2015, I was part of a team of five faculty members who designed a new interdisciplinary program in Mind and Language. 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 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. These experiences have aided my preparation in courses on American Literature, African American Women, and the American Short Story. 

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 teach the following courses at W & J:

  • American Studies Seminar: Founding Documents (AMS 300)
  • First Year Seminar: Power Couple, George and Martha Washington (FYS199)
  • Composition: The Rhetoric of Race in America (ENG 111; ENG 112)
  • Introduction to Literature (ENG 190)
  • Introduction to Professional Writing (ENG 201)
  • Grammar and Language in Professional Life (ENG 202)
  • Plantation Women in Fact, Fiction, and Film (ENG 214)
  • Literature and Consciousness (ENG 228)
  • Reading Fiction (ENG 250)
  • 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)
  • American Short Fiction (ENG 350)
  • African American Women (ENG 343)
  • Senior English Capstone Seminar (ENG 400)

I am currently a member of the Faculty Executive Committee and a faculty representative on the Board of Trustees Student Life Committee. Previously, I served as member (2012 - 2013) and chair (2013 - 2015) of the Curriculum and Program Committee, coordinator of the Professional Writing program (2007 - 2015), member of the Faculty Development Committee (2008 - 2011) 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. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is that I saw Hamilton performed in New York City in March 2016 by the original cast!