Matthew Wynn Sivils Directory Page


Matthew Wynn Sivils



Contact Information

333 Ross Hall


Some Courses I Regularly Teach

ENGL 227: Survey of American Literature to 1865
ENGL 260: Introduction to Literary Studies
ENGL 355: Literature and the Environment
ENGL 362: Studies in 19th-Century American Literature
ENGL 531: Topics in Literature (American Gothic Fiction and the Environment)
ENGL 532: American Literature to 1865
ENGL 543: The Study of Environmental Literature


Ph.D., English, Oklahoma State University
M.A., English, Oklahoma State University
B.S., Fisheries and Wildlife Biology, Arkansas Tech University

Research Areas

American Literature Pre-1900, Ecocriticism, American Gothic, Southern Literature

About My Teaching

I am particularly invested in teaching students how an appreciation of environmental literature translates into a greater understanding of how we should value and care for the natural world during this time of growing environmental crisis. The Environmental philosopher David Orr puts it this way: “The truth is that without significant precautions, education can equip people merely to be more effective vandals of the Earth. If one listens carefully, it may even be possible to hear the creation grown every year in late May when another batch of smart, degree-holding, but ecologically illiterate, Homo sapiens who are eager to succeed are launched into the biosphere” (Earth in Mind, 5).

One of my goals as a professor is to help remedy this problem. I do so by acquainting students with the idea that through great works of literature and art we can learn to better value the land upon which we all depend. Appreciating the environmental lessons found within various works of literature allows us to realize that the natural world possesses an inherent, noneconomic value. These same works help us remember that we, too, are an inextricable part of the natural community. As such, we have a responsibility to preserve our land and our fellow creatures. In his classic work of nature writing, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold—the visionary conservationist, wildlife biologist, and Iowan—called this idea the “land ethic,” and it is the key to the survival of our species and of our world. Great works of environmental literature abound in such wisdom, and it is with pleasure, and urgency, that I introduce my students to these masterpieces. These texts are beautiful and thought-provoking, and they are also vital to the education of my students, whom I hope will go forth and succeed, both on a personal and on a planetary level.

Recent Publications


Of Wilderness and Wolves. By Paul L. Errington. Edited and with an Introduction by MatthewWynn Sivils. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2015.

American Environmental Fiction, 1782-1847. Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2014.

Of Men and Marshes. By Paul L. Errington. With an introduction by Matthew Wynn Sivils. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2012.

The Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief. By James Fenimore Cooper. Edited by Matthew Wynn Sivils and James P. Elliott. New York: AMS P, 2012. [Awarded the MLA Committee on Scholarly Editions (CSE) Seal of Approval].

Lost Creeks: Collected Journals. By Alexander Posey. Edited and with an introduction and notes by Matthew Wynn Sivils. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2009.

Song of the Oktahutche: Collected Poems. By Alexander Posey. Edited and with an introduction and notes by Matthew Wynn Sivils. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2008.

Chinnubbie and the Owl: Muscogee (Creek) Stories, Orations, and Oral Traditions. By Alexander Posey. Edited with an introduction and notes by Matthew Wynn Sivils. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2005.


“Vegetal Haunting: The Gothic Plant in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction,” Ecogothic in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. Edited by Dawn Keetley and Matthew Wynn Sivils. (forthcoming).

“When Peter Parley Met Natty Bumppo: Samuel Goodrich, James Fenimore Cooper, and the Invention of a Young Adult Frontier.” James Fenimore Cooper Society Journal, 26.2 (2016): 11–13.

“Gothic Landscapes of the South.” In Palgrave Handbook of the Southern Gothic. Ed. Charles Crow and Susan Castillo Street. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

“Indian Captivity Narratives and the Origins of American Frontier Gothic.” In The Blackwell Companion to the American Gothic. Ed. Charles Crow. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

“American Gothic and the Environment.” In The Gothic World. Eds. Glennis Byron and Dale Townshend. London: Routledge, 2013.

“‘The Herbage of Death’: Haunted Environments in John Neal and James Fenimore Cooper.” In John Neal and Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture. Eds. Edward Watts and David J. Carlson. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 2012. 39–56.

“Dissecting the Pamphlet Literature of the Boston Smallpox Inoculation Controversy.” Literature and Medicine 29.1 (2011): 39–57.

“Cultivating Ecocentric Students: Teaching Environmental Literature in Iowa.” Iowa English Bulletin 45 (2011): 45–54.

“‘Its Ghastly Visage’: The Leather-Stocking Tales and the Grotesque.” In Leather-Stocking

Redux; Or, Old Tales, New Essays. Ed. Jeffrey Walker. New York: AMS P, 2011. 170–192.

“Doctor Bat’s Ass: Buffon, American Degeneracy, and Cooper’s The Prairie.” Western American Literature 44.4 (2010): 343–361.

“‘The Base, Cursed Thing’: Panther Attacks and Ecotones in Antebellum American Fiction.”


Distinguished Alumni Award, Oklahoma State University College of Arts & Sciences, 2016. Award for Mid-Career Achievement in Research, Iowa State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, May 2016.

Exemplary Faculty Mentor Award, Iowa State University, Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost, May 2015.

CEAH Fellow in the Arts and Humanities, Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities, Iowa State University, 2015.

Award for Early Achievement in Research, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University, 2013.

Justin G. Schiller Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA, 2012.

Best New Journal Award for Literature in the Early American Republic, Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ), 2010.

Gregory L. and Kathleen C. Geoffroy Faculty Fellowship, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University, 2009.
James F. Beard Award for Young Scholars, The James Fenimore Cooper Society, 2007.

Current Research

In addition to several other research projects, I am working on a book entitled, Ecogothic in Nineteenth-Century American Literature, which I am co-editing with Dawn Keetley (Lehigh University) and that is presently under contract with Routledge.

Outside of the University

I enjoy Ledges State Park.