Ellen M. Bayer, Ph.D.

American Literature
Purdue University
Purdue University
Northern Kentucky University

My professional research and teaching interests center on Environmental Literature and Pedagogy, and my personal passion is to help empower others to access and engage with the natural world. Broadly, my work approaches the arts and humanities through an ecocritical lens and examines the role of natural and built environments in the range of texts I study. More specifically, my scholarship explores the ways in which human desires and aesthetic preferences impact the natural world and considers the environmental consequences of our personal preferences. With the aim of reaching a broader audience, I share my work in a variety of formats, from academic and literary journals, to interdisciplinary sustainability workshops, to podcasts and live storytelling events. In terms of teaching, helping students connect with the natural world is the core of my pedagogy. From writing grants to fund excursions to Mount Rainier National Park, to developing a gear lending library and spending my free time out on the trails with students, I view helping students develop the skills and confidence to venture into the natural world as the cornerstone of my job. As my observations reveal, not only can this be a transformative experience for students personally, but having first-hand experience in the natural world also fosters new engagement with issues of sustainability and the global environmental crisis.
Recent Scholarship

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles
• “‘The Strata of My History’: Reading the Ecological Chronotope in Wendell Berry’s That Distant Land.” Forthcoming in Landscapes: the Journal of the International Centre for Landscape and Language (Spring 2019)
• “‘Go to the Place that Hurts’: Confronting a History of Violence in Toni Morrison’s Margaret Garner.” Forthcoming in Parlour: A Journal of Literary Criticism and Analysis 4 (2019).
• “Green Burial, Home Burial: A Return to Redbud Hill.” Forthcoming in The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy (Spring 2019)
• “The Ecocritical Implications of Downing’s Influence on Poe’s Landscape Aesthetic.” The Edgar Allan Poe Review 19.2 (2018): 250-73.
• “A More Complete Ahab: Into the Darkness of Moby-Dick.” Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 17.1 (2017). Co-authored with Dr. Andrea Modarres.

Peer-Reviewed Book Chapter
• “Fishbowl.” The Pocket Instructor: Literature. William Gleason and Diana Fuss, eds. Princeton UP, 2015.

•“‘The Handiwork of Angels’: Transcending the Picturesque in Poe’s Landscape Tales.” Preparing for submission to Poe Studies: History, Theory, Interpretation.
•“Sending Students out of the Classroom and Into the Wild: An Ecopedagogy.” Preparing for submission to The CEA [College English Association] Forum.

Podcasts and Live Narrative Events
•Field Notes: Seventy48. Contributed content for this special episode of the Boldly Went podcast and website, covering the inaugural Seventy48 human-powered boat race, founded in Tacoma, WA.
•Featured Author on four episodes of the Boldly Went Podcast, including “Best Of Season 1”

“The Wisdom of a Ten-Year-Old.” Told at the August 2018 Boldly Went Live Event in Poulsbo, WA. To be featured on a forthcoming episode.
“The Lesson of Kansas.” Told at the April 2018 Boldly Went Live Event in Tacoma, WA. (Microphone malfunction prevented the narrative from being recorded for the podcast.)
“Dismantling Imposter Syndrome in the Central Cascade Range.” Featured on Episode 50 and awarded Best Narrative at the November 2017 Boldly Went Live Event in Tacoma, WA.
“Let the Giver Give.” Featured on Episode 34 and awarded Best Narrative at the July 2017 Boldly Went Live Event in Tacoma, WA.
“Relentless Forward Progress.” Featured on Episodes 17 and 36 and awarded Best Narrative at the April 2017 Boldly Went Live Event in Tacoma, WA and selected as “Best of Season 1” (for being one of the most downloaded narratives of the season.)
Current Research

• "Influences on, and Implications of, Poe's Landscape Aesthetic." This project explores the ecological implications of nineteenth-century landscape aesthetics, as articulated in treatises on the subject as well as in Poe's fiction. It situates my work more clearly within the concerns of ecocriticism and will serve as the basis for my next book project. This essay is forthcoming from the Penn State University Press in the edited collection Influencing Poe.

• The Literary Impression: Narrative Strategy and the Ethics of Reading in Henry James and Kate Chopin: Departing from comparative analyses that have dominated the field, this book project, which is a substantially revised version of my dissertation, works to redefine literary impressionism through the lens of Narrative Studies. It will be the first book to consider what I term the literary impression as a narrative strategy unique to literature and will facilitate a new approach for understanding how literary narratives function.

• “A More Complete Ahab: Into the Darkness of Moby-Dick.” Forthcoming in Reconstructions 17.1 (2017). Co-authored with Andrea Modarres. This article traces representations of Melville’s Captain Ahab across popular culture, training its focus on the ways in which Ahab and his obsession for revenge has surfaced in the Star Trek universe. We argue that, with their more dynamic representation of Melville’s classic character, films such as The Wrath of Khan and Into Darkness present a more nuanced look at these themes that stays true to the complex layers of Moby-Dick.

• “'To Keep a Greater Truth': Reshaping History in Toni Morrison’s Margaret Garner.” Under consideration at The Journal of American Culture. This article investigates the cultural work of Morrison's 2005 libretto for the opera. The essay examines several instances in which Morrison’s libretto differs from the historical record in order to illustrate how these artistic choices interrogate and deepen Margaret Garner’s historical narrative and how they function within the context of the opera’s Mission Statement. Using information obtained through my interviews with several members of the three co-commissioning opera companies, I examine here some of the many community outreach programs designed in conjunction with Margaret Garner and posit that they fulfilled the opera’s mission by introducing the historical figure’s story to a new and larger audience and by generating meaningful dialogue about family, history and race in the participating communities.

Scholarly Interests

Environmental Literature and Nature Writing; Ecocriticism and Environmental Criticism; Geocriticism; Place-Based Pedagogy and Literature; Human/Animal Studies; Narrative Studies and Ethics; Literature and the Arts; Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century American Literature, broadly

View Ellen Bayer's content in our Experts Gallery


TLIT 101: Understanding Literature / Survey Course
TLIT 210: Studies in American Literature / Current: “The Problem of American Identity”
TLIT 237: Introduction to Literature and Environment / Survey Course
TLIT 305: American Literary Movements / Current: “Realism, Naturalism, Regionalism”
TLIT 306: Studies in Selected American Writers / Current: “Moby-Dick and the Arts”
TLIT 311: Themes in American Literature / Current: “Space, Place, and Environment”
TLIT 437: Topics in Literature and Environment / Current: “Wilderness Tales”


Professional Affiliations

The Modern Language Association (MLA)
The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE)
The Society for Nineteenth-Century Americanists (C19)
The Society of Early Americanists (SEA)
The Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA)
The College English Association (CEA)
The Society for the Study of American Women Writers (SSAWW)
The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature (SSML)
The Midwest Modern Language Association (MMLA)
The Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association (RMMLA)
The Henry James Society
The Kate Chopin Society
The Poe Studies Association
The Thoreau Society
The Melville Society

Volunteer Work

Humane Society of Tacoma-Pierce County Community Cats Program

The Posse Foundation, Mentor for DP16 NYC

DePauw Campus Cat Allies      

Academic Service

Conference session chairs for the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment; the Rocky Mountain MLA; and the Poe Studies Association
Book reviewer for the academic journal Humanimalia
Reader for the academic journal Sloth
Mentor for the Posse Foundation      

Honors and Awards

Teaching Awards

Purdue University Committee for the Education of Teaching Assistants Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award, 2009

Purdue University Department of English Excellence in Teaching Award, 2007-2008

Purdue University Department of English Quintillion Award for Excellence as an Instructor: Spring 2008; Fall 2007; Spring 2007; Fall 2006

Academic Awards, Honors, and Grants

University of Washington Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Office Green Seed Grant, Faculty Participant, 2015

Amy Braddock Summer Research Award, Summer 2013

Mellon Environmental Studies Grant-Funded Stipend, Summer 2012

Susan Tane Travel Grant, Summer 2012     

Publication Date Bibliographic Citation

“A More Complete Ahab: Into the Darkness of Moby-Dick.” Forthcoming in Reconstructions 17.1 (2017). Co-authored with Andrea Modarres.


"Influences on, and Implications of, Poe's Landscape Aesthetic." Influencing Poe. Barbara Cantalupo and Richard Kopley, eds. Penn State UP, Forthcoming.


“Fishbowl.” Forthcoming in The Pocket Instructor: Literature. William Gleason and Diana Fuss, eds. Princeton UP, 2015.  


Henry James, Impressionism, and The Public, by Daniel Hannah. Review 19 (December 2013). 


Worm Work: Recasting Romanticism, by Janelle A. Schwartz (2012). In Humanimalia 5.1 (2013): 141-46. 


Lobster, by Richard J. King (2011) and Lobster: A Global History, by Elisabeth Townsend (2011). In Humanimalia 3.1 (2011): 101-07.  


Livestock/Deadstock, by Rhoda M. Wilkie (2010). In Humanimalia 2.2 (2011): 125-33.