James English

John Welsh Centennial Professor of English

(215) 898-4377

Fisher-Bennett Hall 311


Jim English is founding faculty director of the Price Lab for Digital Humanities. From 2011 to 2018 he directed the Penn Humanities Forum and oversaw its relaunch as the Wolf Humanities Center.  He is a former Chair of the English department and has served as interim Director of Cinema Studies and Moderator of the University Council.

Jim received his MA from the University of Chicago and his PhD from Stanford, specializing in modern and contemporary British fiction. His first book, Comic Transactions: Literature, Humor, and the Politics of Community in Twentieth-Century Britain, explored the political dimensions of joke-work in the British novel from Conrad and Woolf to Lessing and Rushdie. Since then his work has focused on the sociology of literature and especially on its institutional and transnational dimensions. The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value (Harvard UP) was reviewed in more then sixty journals and newspapers and named Best Academic Book of 2005 by New York Magazine.  The Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fiction, a collection of essays about the scene and system of literary production in the UK, was published the following year by Blackwell.  His book The Global Future of English Studies was published in 2012 in the Blackwell Manifesto series  It rethinks the prevailing narratives of contraction and decline that dominate histories of the discipline, stressing instead the discipline's expansion within a rapidly massivying global academic apparatus, and the new challenges and opportunities such sudden and dispersive growth presents.  He edited a special issue of MLQ on "Scale and Value: New and Digital Approaches to Literary History" (2016) and a special issue of NLH on "New Sociologies of Literature" in 2010.  From 1999 to 2005, he was editor of Postmodern Culture.  His essays have appeared in PMLARepresentations, New York Times, Atlantic, Harpers, Public Books, LA Review of Books, and many other journals. 

He is currently completing Beauty By the Numbers, a history of rating and ranking systems in literature and art.  

Recipient of the 2016 Ira Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching, Jim has taught a range of courses from general surveys of modernist and postmodernist literature to advanced seminars in globlization, critical theory, British cinema, and the audiobook.  In 2015 he taught a graduate seminar, "Empirical Method in Literary Studies."  In 2016-17 he taught a class on literary awards with focus on the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, for which he served as the chair of the judging panel.  His webpage describes his teaching, research, and professional activities in greater detail.

Research Interests

British Cinema