Jane F. Thrailkill

Email:   tkill@unc.edu
Phone:   919-962-5481
Office:   Greenlaw 411
Website:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksmWDfSodv4
Curriculum Vitae:   PDF icon Thrailkill_cv_9_5_2014.pdf
Hire Date:   2 000


Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Associate Professor


Ph. D., The Johns Hopkins University, 2001 (English and American literature)
M.A., The Johns Hopkins University, 1995 (English and American literature)
B.A., Amherst College, 1985 (English) 


Academic Specialties


Leadership & Service

Teaching & Awards

1.  Academic Specialities

AMERICAN LITERATURE: My primary area of expertise is pre-1900 American literature and culture, with an emphasis on the ways authors responded to the political, social, and technological disruptions following the Civil War. My research and scholarship examine the links among literature, science, and philosophy in the 19th century: of particular interest are the philosophical pragmatism and new psychology of William James and John Dewey (click here to read a forthcoming essay).

MEDICAL HUMANITIES: From my days as a pre-med student at Amherst College, I have a strong interest in the interdisciplinary field of medical humanities. At UNC, I've collaborated with the Honors Program and with colleagues across campus to create an undergraduate minor and a new graduate program in Literature, Medicine, and Culture. My talk for TEDxUNC (2013) looked at the serious issue of hospital-based delirium and describes how literary study can give insight into medical problems. I have been part of the Medical Humanities initiative at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities and look forward to participating in the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes MH working group in Hong Kong (June 2014).

Prof. Eliza Richards and I are Conference Hosts for C19, March 13-16, 2014, at the Carolina Inn and the Institute for the Arts and Humanities. UNC sponsors include the IAH, the Department of English and Comparative Literature, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Graduate School.

2.  Research

My first bookAffecting Fictions: Mind, Body, and Emotion in American Literary Realism (Harvard University Press), examines literary, scientific, and philosophical works of the 19th century to argue that emotion is crucial to acts of reading and interpretation. The study makes its case by examining fiction written by Mark Twain, Kate Chopin, Henry James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Stephen Crane, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, and by drawing on research by neuroscientists, philosophers, and cognitive psychologists today. Affecting Fictions was reviewed in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Modernism/modernity, Legacy, American Book Review, Novel, Textual Practice, College English, American Literary Realism, and American Literature.

For smart critiques of my work, check out this piece by Daniel Gross and this one by Jason Bartulis.

I am finishing my second monograph, Arts of Mind: Jokes, Games, and Philosophical Toys in the Writings of Alice, William, and Henry James (description here). I've published essays in American Literature (click here to read an excerpt), American Literary History, Studies in American FictionEuropean Literary History, Poetics Todayand in various essay collections. 

Selected publications

  • "Pragmatism and the Evolutionary Child," American Literary History 24.2 (summer 2012), 265-280 (click here to read an excerpt).
  • "Ian McEwan's Neurological Novel," Poetics Today (special issue: “Narrative and the Emotions”), 32.1 (2011): 171-201. 
  • "Railway Spine, Nervous Excess, and the Forensic Self," Neurology and Modernity, eds. Andrew Shail and Laura Salisbury (Palgrave, 2010): 96-112.

3.  University Leadership & Service

CURRENT:  Faculty Advisory Board, Program in the Humanities; Advisory Board, M.A. subplan in Literature, Medicine, and Culture; Faculty Advisory Board, UNC Arts@The Core; Provost's Committee on the Status of Women (click here for our report on women & leadership at UNC).

PAST:  Director of Graduate Admissions for English; Director of Undergraduate Studies for English; Interim Associate Director IAH Faculty Fellows Program; Faculty Advisory Board, IAH; President, Association of Women Faculty and Professionals; Faculty Member, Board of Trustees Vision Committee for Undergraduate Education

4.  Teaching & Awards

Courses taught include

Teaching Awards