The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Randall Knoper

Professor Emeritus

Randall Knoper is professor emeritus of English and former chair of the Department of English. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Iowa (1977) and his M.A. in English (1981) and Ph.D. in English and American Studies (1986) from Indiana University. He previously taught at Lafayette College and taught at the University of Massachusetts from 1990 to 2022. He served as director of American Studies (1997-2000), director of undergraduate studies in English (2000-2006, 2009-2016), and associate chair of the department (2006-2009). He was chair of the department from 2016 to 2022. He is the recipient of the university's Outstanding Academic Advisor Award, the Outstanding Teacher Award and the Distinguished Faculty Service Award from the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and other awards, grants, and fellowships.

His research and teaching interests have included American Studies and interdisciplinarity, nineteenth and early twentieth-century American literature and culture, and the relations between the humanities and the sciences. He is the author of Acting Naturally: Mark Twain in the Culture of Performance (1995)—a book about Mark Twain, popular theater, and ideas of theatricality and performance—and of Literary Neurophysiology: Memory, Race, Sex, and Representation in U.S. Writing, 1860-1914 (2021), which considers literary authors' experiments with and challenges to the new materialist psychology of the later nineteenth century, a science that was challenging their capacity to represent reality and forging new understandings of race and sexuality. A selection of his writings is available at UMass Scholarworks.

Research Areas

  • American, Atlantic, & Hemispheric
  • American Literature
  • Theory and Culture

Courses Recently Taught


  • Introduction to American Studies
  • American Fiction
  • American Literature: 1865 to the Present
  • American Realism
  • Darwinism and American Literature
  • American Literature and the Visual Arts 1880-1920


  • Introductory courses on American Studies and interdisciplinarity
  • Literature and Psychology
  • Humanities and Science.
  • Materialism and Literature
  • Why Historicize?