Susan Greenfield

More from Susan Greenfield on Jane Austen (but this time, also on health care!)

Professor Susan Greenfield published "Postmortem: Jane Austen and Repealing the Affordable Care Act" in the August 9. 2017 Los Angeles Review of Books blog.


For now, it appears the Republican Senators’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act is dead. But key provisions (like cost-sharing reductions for insurers) remain in doubt, Vice President Pence has said, “We won’t rest until we end […] ObamaCare,” and Trump still wants to sabotage the law.  In July, the vast majority of Republican Senators were prepared to do just that.

At about the same time that Republicans were busy attacking the ACA, Austen fans throughout America (and the world) were celebrating the author’s bicentenary. Few people, I suspect, saw any connection between the subjects..... [Click here to read the full article]

Susan Greenfield talks about Jane Austen--on the radio!

Though July 2017 marks the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death, she is more alive than ever as a popular culture icon. Click here to listen to Professor Susan Greenfield’s exciting debate about the author’s enduring significance with the movie director Whit Stillman, hosted by Meghna Chakrabarti on her WBUR show Radio Boston. Among other things, Greenfield discusses Austen’s complicated politics and her skeptical position about the manipulative power of romance. Hollywood may celebrate Austen for her love stories, but her novels show that romantic love is often a surprisingly solitary experience. Many thanks to Greenfield’s former student and Fordham alum Kathleen McNerney (2007), who is senior associate producer of Radio Boston, for arranging the interview. 

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Literature and Service: Susan Greenfield's "Homelessness" course

Fordham English Professor Susan Greenfield's course on "Homelessness: Literary Representation and Historical Reality" was the subject of this story in Inside Fordham, written by Joanna Mercuri and published on November 9, 2015.

The Needy and the Needed: Grappling with Tough Questions about Homelessness and Service

Molly Shilo was frustrated.

Professor Susan Greenfield

Professor Susan Greenfield

When she had signed up for Susan Greenfield’s course on homelessness this semester—an English course with 30 required hours of service learning—she was as ready and willing as any Jesuit-educated student to serve the community.

But when she showed up to volunteer at a Bronx shelter for women and children and was told that there was no need for her, Shilo was at a loss.

“When we fulfill a need, we feel important, we feel irreplaceable, and we feel satisfied,” Shilo, a junior at Fordham College at Rose Hill, said during Greenfield’s Friday morning class. “When . . . this need-based satisfaction was taken out of the [equation], I began to question what my motive was in doing service.

“Am I serving simply to feel good about myself, and is it okay if I am, as long as the result is the same? Am I doing it as a type of ‘humble brag,’ making sure everyone knows that I am a socially conscious, ‘good,’ and caring individual?”

Feeling conflicted about service

These are the tough questions that Greenfield, PhD, a professor of English, wants her undergraduate students to be bothered by. Her course, Homelessness: Literary Representation and Historical Reality, uses a literary approach to examine the complex issues surrounding homelessness. On the reading list are texts ranging from classics such as The Grapes of Wrath to contemporary memoirs such as Lee Stringer’s Grand Central Winter: Stories from the Street.

On the experiential side, students have heard stories firsthand from formerly homeless individuals who spoke to the class. In addition, the students are required to complete 30 hours of service in an organization that serves the homeless—a fairly easy quota to fulfill when you live in a city of more than 59,000 homeless men, women, and children. (In fact, this estimate is extremely low, because it does not include the number of people living on the street, nor the number of women and children in domestic violence shelters.)

The service component, it turns out, has prompted a healthy amount of internal conflict.

In response to Shilo’s predicament, another student in the class shared her ambivalence about the idea that volunteering helps the privileged become more aware of and sympathetic to those in need. “It’s service, but you’re just ultimately serving yourself,” she said. “I don’t have an answer to that dilemma.”

That may be, but educating and inspiring those who do service can still be useful, suggested another student. “Look at an organization like Part Of The Solution (POTS),” he said. “That’s how POTS began—[the founders]had an initial experience of service and then began that organization, which really does make a difference.”

The desire to “make a difference” is often what draws students to service, Greenfield said. In class, however, as they’ve begun to consider that desire, the students are learning that “making a difference” is a nebulous goal. Moreover, there seems to be a tacit power dynamic beneath their good intentions.

“Someone needs and someone is needed. Being needed feels good; being in need doesn’t feel so good,” Greenfield said. “That idea, to me, is important. Is there a way to do service that fosters equality rather than replicating the power problem that created the situation in the first place?”

One way to achieve that is to respect the autonomy of whoever is being served, she said. “Even a simple gesture [such as]saying ‘Can I help you?’ rather than ‘Let me help you,’ is a political change. It’s a move from ‘I’m going to do this’ to ‘Do you want me to do this?’ That’s how you can make a difference on the local level.”

Heroism and homelessness

Literature is an entryway into these kinds of conversations, Greenfield said. Many texts, such as Shakespeare’s King Lear and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, exalt homelessness rather than view it as a social failing.

“The characters who fall socioeconomically ultimately rise as human beings. They become even better people,” Greenfield said. “There’s a certain nobility and integrity that comes from ending up at the bottom. It becomes a kind of heroic act to have fallen.”

And yet, that hardly serves as solace for someone living the trauma of homelessness. It still overlooks the question of whether one can ever alter the power struggle in the service dynamic—or, as Shilo wondered, whether it even matters if the end result still benefits the person being served (or at least does not cause harm).

“I always find when I teach this course that there’s a place at which my brain just stops. I can’t get beyond some of these questions,” Greenfield said. “It’s not like reading literature and discussing, where you have a eureka moment and reach some kind of conclusion.”

There’s no clear-cut answer, unfortunately. Greenfield cautions her students about this upfront: “Unless we ourselves have been homeless, we cannot presume to understand the trauma,” she wrote in the course syllabus. “But we can open ourselves up to learn about it and to work toward social justice.”

Sometimes, forming relationships are the only option available. To that end, stories are a good start.

“Literature is an exercise in imagining another person’s experience and being open to it,” Greenfield said. “To bring that kind of awareness and openness to people who you might normally just pass by and not even notice, it does change things.”

Susan Greenfield's "Homelessness" Course Added to Fall Schedule

Take a service-learning course in the English department! "Homelessness: Literary Representation and Historical Reality" is a late addition to our Fall schedule. Taught by Professor Susan Greenfield, the course explores the literary representation--and lived experience--of homelessness.

For the academic portion of the course, you will read canonical literature about homelessness, including King LearThe Wrongs of WomanAdventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Grapes of Wrath, as well as various essays and memoirs by and about homeless people.

The service portion of the course will include meetings and discussions with homeless and formerly homeless people and 30 hours of volunteer work with a relevant service organization.

The course, ENGL 3964 R01, is being held Tuesdays and Fridays from 11:30 AM - 12:45 PM at the Rose Hill Campus.

FCRH Senior to Begin Ph.D. at University of Chicago


This fall, English major Katherine Nolan will begin doctoral study at the University of Chicago, which has offered her a highly competitive, five-year fellowship to study eighteenth-century literature.

Nolan (FCRH 2015) researches the advent of the novel, a form that, in its earliest stages, she says reads like “the wild west of literature.”  While she finds that some of her peers “associate the 18th century with Jane Austen and this sort of prim style of writing,” her scholarship asserts that “eighteenth-century novels can be more violent and racy” than is often assumed.  For example, Nolan’s senior thesis, titled “The Grammar of Desire: Eliza Haywood and the Sex Plot,” analyzes the erotic charges throughout the writings of the eighteenth-century author and actress.

Nolan attributes her interest in eighteenth-century literature to Professor Susan Greenfield, whose "Early Women Novelists" course exposed her to various eighteenth-century female authors.  She also mentions among her most influential courses an illuminating course with Professor Corey McEleney: “I foolishly did not think I could learn anything new about Shakespeare, and he absolutely proved me wrong.

The mentorship of Fordham’s English department crucially shaped Nolan’s undergraduate career.  Nolan praises the generous and insightful advising of Professors Keri Walsh and John Bugg, who she says “have been two of the most wonderful advisors and teachers a person could ask for; I am absolutely indebted to them for their help and support with the graduate school process.”

As Nolan embarks on a new future, she will bring with her skills learned from her academic as well as professional experiences, which include an internship at Columbia University Press, a managing editor position at the Fordham Undergraduate Research Journal, and four years as a writer—and two years as a copy chief—for The Fordham Ram.  Nolan will especially miss “the late Tuesday nights down in the newspaper office” and implores other English majors to consider contributing to The Ram: “I got to work with some of the greatest, most talented people. The Ram is such a great organization for English majors, especially . . .  I know I have learned so much and have become a better writer as a result.”

Story written by Kevin Stevens

Mullarkey Forum Highlights English Faculty Research


Following is a snapshot of the 2013 Mullarkey Forum that featured six talks on a wide range of subjects. 

The event began with a generous introduction by the holder of the Thomas F. X. and Theresa Mullarkey Chair in Literature, Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, who was applauded for her efforts in organizing this event each year. Wogan-Browne argued eloquently that true innovation takes place in humanities research--not just in science--and the Forum proved her point.  

Jocelyn Wogan-Browne

Jocelyn Wogan-Browne

Edward Cahill

Edward Cahill

The first of the afternoon's two panels was introduced and chaired by Frank Boyle, and began with Edward Cahill's talk "Colonial Rising: Narratives of Upward Mobility in British America." Cahill's exhaustive research on these narratives is showing that much of what we think we understand about upward mobility is historically wrong: for instance, that what we call "the American dream" really originated in Britain. 



Daniel Contreras

Daniel Contreras


Next up was  Daniel Contreras, who spoke about his project “Falling in Love with Love: Latino Literary Studies and the History of Love.” Contreras argued for the cultural specificity of even the most basic forms of emotion, such as love, and drew on Sandra Cisneros's novel Caramelo to illustrate his point.  



Sarah Gamibto

Sarah Gamibto

Sarah Gambito's “Second Born:  Writing Race and Belonging" concluded the first panel.  Gambito, poet and Creative Writing Director, linked her poetry with her work on the nonprofit group Kundiman, and shared the video recently created for the organization as well as a video of one of its recent projects. 



The second panel, chaired by Eve Keller, opened with Susan Greenfield speaking about her op-ed writing on the Huffington Post. Her talk was titled “Vlog and Blog: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Public Exposure." Next came two faculty members who are working on the history and theory of Method Acting, and are planning a major conference on the topic for Fall 2014 at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus. First Shonni Enelow gave a talk titled “Identifying the Method,” which touched on several examples of how Method Acting has figured in popular culture, including at the 2013 White House Correspondents' Dinner. Then Keri Walsh's talk, “Acting Like a Hustler: The Films of Paul Newman," centered on a reading of a scene from the 1961 film 

The Hustler, featuring Paul Newman and Piper Laurie. 

From left to right, Keri Walsh, Shonni Enelow and Susan Greenfield

From left to right, Keri Walsh, Shonni Enelow and Susan Greenfield

Each panel resulted in lively discussion with the audience and everyone enjoyed the festive reception in between. Audience members and participants alike agreed that--as with the previous two Mullarkey events--the forum highlighted the strength, depth, and breadth of faculty research in Fordham University's English Department.