Matthew Wynn Sivils

Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Professor


Office:333 Ross
527 Farm House Ln.
Ames IA
Office Hours:TR 11-12:30 and by appointment


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

Early American Literature, American Gothic, Environmental Studies

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


Sir Rohan's Ghost. A Romance. By Harriet Prescott Spofford. Edited and with an introduction and notes by Matthew Wynn Sivils. London: Anthem Press [Forthcoming].

Ecogothic in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. Edited and with an Introduction by Dawn Keetley and Matthew Wynn Sivils. New York: Routledge, 2017.

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

American Environmental Fiction, 1782-1847. Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2014. [Reprinted by Routledge, 2016]


“Environmental Apocalypse and The Crater (1847),” In Approaches to Teaching the Novels of James Fenimore Cooper. Edited by Stephen Arch and Keat Murray. MLA Press, [forthcoming].

"Transcorporeality and the Pursuit of Happiness in Leonora Sansay's Laura (1809)," Revue Française d'Etudes Américaines 157 (2018): 104–116.

"Blood in the Watershed: Systems Ecology, Violence, and Cooper's The Pioneers," James Fenimore Cooper Society Journal 29.2 (2018): 5–15.

“Vegetal Haunting: The Gothic Plant in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction.” In Ecogothic in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. Edited and with an Introduction by Dawn Keetley and Matthew Wynn Sivils. New York: Routledge, 2017. 161–174.

“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. Edited by Susan Castillo Street and Charles L. Crow. London: Palgrave, 2016. 83–93.

“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. 84–94.

“American Gothic and the Environment.” In The Gothic World. Eds. Glennis Byron and Dale Townshend. London: Routledge, 2013. 121–131.


Exemplary Faculty Mentor Award, Iowa State University, Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost, 2017 (and also in 2015).

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, 2016.

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.

Current Research

I am presently working on a scholarly edition of Harriet Prescott Spofford’s 1860 Gothic novel, Sir Rohan’s Ghost (under contract with Anthem Press).