Joan Richardson
Position: Distinguished Professor, Comparative Literature
Distinguished Professor, English
Distinguished Professor, MA. in Liberal Arts
Distinguished Professor, American Studies Certificate Program
Programs: English | Comparative Literature | MA Liberal Studies
Campus Affiliation: Graduate Center
Phone: 212-817-8316
Office Hours: Thursdays, 4 p.m.-6 p.m. and by appointment
Degrees/Diplomas: Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The Graduate Center, CUNY
Research Interests: American literature/American studies, focusing on the 19th and 20th centuries; modernism; Wallace Stevens; science and literature; philosophy and literature, especially pragmatism; visual arts and literature; American Colonial period and American religion
Specializations: Literary History, Criticism, and Theory, Literature and Science

Joan Richardson, who joined the faculty in 1987, is the author of a two-volume biography of the poet Wallace Stevens: Wallace Stevens: The Early Years, 1879–1928 and Wallace Stevens: The Later Years, 1923–1955. She is also the coeditor, with Frank Kermode, of the Library of America edition Wallace Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose. Her study A Natural History of Pragmatism: The Fact of Feeling from Jonathan Edwards to Gertrude Stein was nominated for the 2011 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. Another volume, Pragmatism and American Experience, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013. And in 2018, her How to Live, What to do: Thirteen Ways of Looking at Wallace Stevens was published by the University of Iowa Press under their Muse Books imprint.
Richardson’s essays and interviews on such topics as Stevens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jonathan Edwards, Stanley Cavell, Alfred North Whitehead, William James, poetry, pragmatism, and the HBO series Deadwood have appeared in the Wallace Stevens Journal, Raritan, Configurations, the Hopkins Review, and Bookforum, and as chapters in edited volumes, among other publications. Her awards include a 2012 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, and a Senior Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Richardson’s work reflects an abiding interest in the ways that philosophy, natural history, and science intersect with literature. Having grown up bilingual in New York City while learning to read and write Demotic Greek before acquiring those skills in English, she has always been deeply preoccupied with the nature of language itself. Experiencing life and literature “in Greek” remains essential for her. Her current work-in-progress, Images, Shadows of Divine Things, a secular spiritual autobiography reflects these intersecting vectors.

Professional Affiliations and Memberships

  • Modern Language Association
  • American Comparative Literature Association
  • William James Society
  • Wallace Stevens Society
  • The Wallace Stevens Journal (editorial board)
  • Studies in American Fiction (editorial board)
  • The Grenfell Press (poetry editor)

Courses Taught

  • American Aesthetics: The Fact of Feeling
  • American Aesthetics: "The mind feels when it thinks."
  • American Aesthetics: Magic Words, Modes of Thought & Language Games
  • American Aesthetics: Entanglement, or, "spooky action at a distance": A Theory of Reading & Writing