Professor Baym, Swanlund Professor Emerita of English, is a distinguished revisionary historian and critic of American literature, specializing in nineteenth-century writers, women writers, fiction, nonfiction prose, and the relations of literary culture to other aspects of nineteenth-century American society. She serves as general editor of the Norton Anthology of American Literature, the most widely used college anthology in the field. Her book, American Women of Letters and the Nineteenth-Century Sciences, was published in January 2002 and selected by Choice magazine as an outstanding academic title for the year. Her most recent book, Women Writers of the American West, (2011) is about American women writers from the Old West (1865-1928) for which she has been awarded a Mellon Foundation Emeritus Fellowship.
Other books include American Woman Writers and the Work of History, 1790-1860 (1995), which traces themes and variations in history writing by women; The Shape of Hawthorne’s Career (1976), studying Nathaniel Hawthorne’s literary output in the context of literary movements of his own day; Woman’s Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America, 1820-70 (2nd ed., 1992), which helped to establish and shape what is now a very large field of study focused on American women writers; and Novels, Readers and Reviewers: Responses to Fiction in Antebellum America (1984, 1987), which attempted to retrieve the original conditions under which novels were read by studying numerous contemporary reviews of nineteenth-century fiction. A collection of her critical essays originally published during the 1980s, Feminism and American Literary History, appeared in 1992.
Her forthcoming book (University of Illinois Press, 2011) uncovers and describes books by some 340 women who published about the American West up through 1927. Her most recent book, Women Writers of the American West, 1833-1927 (2011), describes more than 600 books published by over 340 women. In that the American West has long been thought of as an exclusively male literary domain, this work expands the understanding of American literature in general as well as contributing to the history of women writers.
Her work has been recognized through election to the American Antiquarian Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society. She has won the Hubbell Lifetime Achievement Medal, awarded by the American Literature Section of the Modern Language Association. In all, she has written eight scholarly books, edited another seven, and published more than 60 articles, as well as more than 125 scholarly book reviews. She regularly taught the large undergraduate lecture-survey of American literature to 1870 and has directed 39 Ph.D. dissertations to completion. She served with distinction as director of the University’s School of Humanities (1976-87), was named in the first class of Senior University Scholars (1985), and was appointed a Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1988, the first year of that program, as well. She was appointed to a Swanlund Endowed Chair in 1997. She has been a Guggenheim Fellow (1975) and an NEH Fellow (1982). In 2013, she was selected for the first 25 out of an eventual 100 for the LAS “Gallery of Excellence” celebrating the college’s 100th anniversary.