Mary Isbell, Ph.D.

Mary Isbell, Ph.D. Image
Associate Professor
Assistant Dean for Student Recruitment and Retention

English Department
College of Arts and Sciences

Ph.D. English, University of Connecticut, May 2013.

M.A. English, University of Connecticut, May 2007.

B.A. English, Loyola University, New Orleans, May 2004.

About Mary

Mary Isbell is an Associate Professor of English. Her research focuses on nineteenth-century literature and culture, narratology, scholarly text encoding, and open educational practices. Her work has appeared in Victorian Literature and Culture, Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, and Scholarly Editing. She served as PI on the Open Pedagogy Project [], funded by the Davis Educational Foundation, and is working with a team of humanities faculty to build The Connected Core, an initiative to remove the barriers that often stop professionally minded students from engaging with the arts and humanities.

Research and Teaching Interests

Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture, Theater History, Victorian Studies, Maritime Studies, Book History, Digital Humanities, Narrative Theory, Composition Studies


"Dickens and Amateur Theatricals." Accepted for publication in Dickens and the Arts. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, expected 2020/2021.

"Diplomatic Editions of a Handwritten Shipboard Newspaper," accepted for publication in Handwritten Newspapers: An Alternative Medium During the Early Modern and Modern Periods. Studia Fennica Folkloristica series. London: Ubiquity Press. In production. Expected 2020.

Extracts from "The Young Idea" (Editor). Scholarly Editing 37 (2016). Online.

"When Ditchers and Jack Tars Collide: Benefit Theatricals at the Calcutta Lyric Theatre during The Indian Mutiny of 1857-9." Forthcoming in special issue of Victorian Literature and Culture on "Victorian India," 2014.

"P(l)aying off Old Ironsides and The Old Wagon: Melville's Depiction of Shipboard Theatricals in White-Jacket." Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies 15.1 (2013).

"The Handwritten Playbill as Cultural Artifact: A French Amateur Theatrical Aboard the British Prison Ship, Crown." Inquire: A Journal of Comparative Literature 1.2 (2011).


"Editing the Public Domain with Undergraduate Students: Studying Literature with Collaborative Annotation and Digital Publication," Course-Based Undergraduate Research. Stylus Publishing. 2018.

"Rehearsal Aboard Old Ironsides," USS Constitution Museum, 31 July 2014,

"Playing with Dramatic Adaptations: Charades as an Approach to John Brougham's 1849 Adaptation of Jane Eyre." Critical Insights: Jane Eyre. Salem Press. 2014.

Co-Editor, with Judith Hawley. Amateur Theatre in the Long Nineteenth Century. Special Issue of Nineteenth-Century Theatre and Film. 38.2 (2011).

"Documents of Performance: Illustrated Reviews of Naval Theatricals." Nineteenth-Century Theatre and Film, 38.2 (2011).

Editor. Writing Through Literature: An Anthology of Literary Texts for Academic Inquiry. Dubuque: Kendall Hunt, 2011 (revised printing, 2012). Custom Textbook for UConn's First-Year English Program.

Selected Conference Presentations

"Sites of Performance in Ports of the British Empire." Maritime Spaces, Shows, and the Nineteenth-Century City. Cork, Ireland. April 2019.

"Not Crossing the Line: The Sailor Amateurs of H.M.S. Chesapeake." Invited presentation for colloquium entitled "Transferring or Transforming Performance?: Theatrical Touring and the 19th Century." Canberra, Australia. February 2019.

With Matthew Wranovix, "Uncommon Approaches to the Common Read." National Collegiate Honors Council Annual Conference. Boston. November 2018.

"Not Crossing the Line: A Rehearsal Play aboard USS Constitution." Invited presentation for symposium entitled "Playing with History: A Performance-Based Historiography Symposium." Toronto, Canada. October 2018.

"Spectacle at Sea: The Merry Monarch off the Coast of Jeddah." City, Space, and Spectacle in Nineteenth-Century Literature. Venice, Italy. June 2018.

"Deliberately Reinventing the Wheel: Using Technology to Adapt Writing Center Resources" Northeast Writing Center Association. College of the Holy Cross. April 2018.

"Editing The Young Idea, A Nineteenth-Century Handwritten Shipboard Newspaper." Maritime Literary Cultures: Reading and Writing at Sea. Heidelberg, Germany. October 2016.

"Editing and Adapting the Public Domain: How Collaborative Annotation Energized Our Common Read Program." New American Colleges & Universities Digital Scholarship Workshop. Austin (presented remotely from New Haven). October 2016.

With Teresa Navarro, "Data Analysis as Close Reading: Undergraduates and Digital Editing." Nineteenth-Century Studies Association Annual Conference. Lincoln. April 2016.

"Adapting Digital Tools, Discovering Pedagogical Priorities," Conference on the Teaching of Writing. University of Connecticut. March 2016.

"Annotating Benito Cereno." Special Session: "Amplified Marginalia: Networked Annotation, Critical Pedagogy, and the Social Text." Modern Language Association Annual Conference. Austin. January 2016.

"Recovering Victorian Shipboard Editorial Practices through a 21st-century Editorial Project." Invited Presentation for Workshop entitled "Handwritten Newspapers as an Alternative Medium during the Early Modern and Modern Times." Uppsala, Sweden. September 2015.

"For Whom Might the Global Spread of Melodrama Have Had a Deleterious Effect?" Contribution to Roundtable on Melodrama. North American Victorian Studies Association Annual Conference. Honolulu. July 2015.

"Digital Editing with and for Students." Invited Presentation for Conversations in Digital Scholarship Series. University of Connecticut. April 2015.

"Handwritten Playbills and Amateur Reviews: The Material Traces of Private Home Theatricals." Nineteenth-Century Studies Association Annual Conference. Boston. April 2015.

"Digital Annotation and the Writing Process." Invited Presentation for MIT's Collaborative Insights through Digital Annotation. Cambridge, MA. January 2015.

"Re-Classifying Bombastes Furioso: Burlesque in the Amateur Repertoire" North American Victorian Studies Association Annual Conference. London, Ontario. November 2014 (Paper Accepted).

"Reconstructing the Community Cultivated by The Young Idea." Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing Annual Conference. Antwerp. September 2014. (Paper Accepted).

"Imperial and Shipboard Circulation: The Places and Spaces of The Young Idea." Research Society for Victorian Periodicals Annual Conference. Delaware. September 2014. (Paper Accepted)

"Private Venues and the Theatrical Commons." The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists Annual Conference. Chapel Hill. March 2014.

"Imagining Victorian Periodicals and Theatricals at Sea." North American Victorian Studies Association Annual Conference. Pasadena. October 2013.

"'Maintaining the Dignity of the Stage' at Sea: Culture Wars aboard the USS Macedonian." Canadian Association for Theatre Research. University of Victoria. June 2013.

"Managing A Shipboard Theatrical aboard the US Brig Niagara." What signifies a theatre? Conference (The third event in a conference series on amateur and private performance hosted by Royal Holloway, University of London). London. July 2012.

"The Aesthetics of Amateur Theatricals: Private Performances of the Public Repertoire." Northeast Modern Language Association Annual Conference. St. John Fisher College. Rochester, NY. March 2012.

"Communicating the Goals of "Writing through Literature." Theoretical Perspectives: Writing Through the Genres. Writing Program Administrators Conference. Baton Rouge. July 15, 2011.

"A Travestied Drama and an Involuntarily Burlesqued Burlesque: The Sailor Amateurs of H.M.S. Chesapeake perform at the Calcutta Lyric Theatre." What signifies a theatre? Conference 2 of 3. University of London. Royal Holloway. June 2011.

"Question-less Assignments: Some Thoughts on Promoting Genuine Student Inquiry." Conference on the Teaching of Writing. University of Connecticut. March 25, 2011.

Selected Seminars, Symposia and Workshops

Co-organizer, New American Colleges & Universities Digital Scholarship Workshop. Austin. October 2016.

Participant, New American Colleges & Universities Summer Institute: Pre-Conference Meeting for Ambassadors. New York. June 2016.

Respondent, "The Literary Anthology in the Age of Web Annotation." Hypothesis Webinar. Recording linked from

Session Chair, "The Material Traces of Nineteenth-Century Amateur Theatricals: A Panel Proposal from RAPPT" (panel accepted). Nineteenth-Century Studies Association Annual Conference. Boston. April 2015.

Session chair, "Class and the Classifications of Victorian Theater" (Panel Accepted). North American Victorian Studies Annual Conference. London, Ontario. November 2014.

Co-Organizer, "Paying the Piper: Economies of Amateur Performance." First Annual Conference for RAPPT (Research into Amateur Performance and Private Theatricals) incorporating a practice-based research project. London. June 2014.

Organizer, "Performance and the Sea: An Interdisciplinary Symposium." Yale University. March 2014.

Session co-chair, with Nancy Friedland. "DH & Theatre Studies: An ASTR Unconference." American Society for Theatre Research Annual Conference. Dallas. November 2013.


William L. Bucknall Excellence in Teaching Award; University of New Haven, 2019-20

University Research Scholar; University of New Haven, 2018-2021

Summer Faculty Fellowship; University of New Haven, 2015

Emerging Scholars Award; Canadian Association for Theatre Research, 2013

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Graduate Fellowship in the Humanities; University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, 2012-13

Honorable Mention, Walter L. Arnstein Prize for Dissertation Research in Victorian Studies, 2012

University of Connecticut Humanities Institute Graduate Student Summer Research Grant, 2012

Non-Teaching Dissertation Fellowship, Spring 2012

Helen Krich Chinoy Dissertation Award from the American Society for Theatre Research, 2011

Research Award from the Society for Theatre Research, 2010

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