Susan Uselmann

Assistant Professor of Humanities and English for Academic Purposes

Director, Eastman Writing Center (EWC)




Photo Credit: Gerry Szymanski

Susan Uselmann is the director of the Eastman Writing Center and an assistant professor of Humanities and English as a Second Language.  Her primary research focuses on the history of reading and the idea of the literary author, in particular the role of imagination and memory in understanding creative expression.

She has authored articles on the nature of reading in medieval English literature, and co-edited a volume of essays, entitled Middle English Devotional Literature and Practice (Brepols, 2016).  She is also the recipient of a teaching grant from the National Endowment for Humanities to develop a course on the nature of creativity.  She is currently at work on a book entitled Memory and Imagination in Medieval English Devotional Literature.

Professor Uselmann’s research and teaching encompass a range of interests, including the history of languages and reading practices; creativity theory and practice; composition and rhetoric; mythology and folklore; gender and women’s studies and literary theory; as well as the bible as literature, creative writing and contemporary poetry.  At Eastman she teaches English as a Second Language, the Freshman Writing Seminar, the Versatile Musician, as well as courses on Creativity, Fairy Tales, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Children’s Literature, and the History of the English Language.


Works / Publications


Medieval Devotional Literature and Practice:  Readers, Reading and Reception, co-edited with C. Annette Grisé and Kathryn Vulic, final draft submitted as part of Disputatio series (ed. Dallas Denery), Brepols, 2016.

“Devotional Reading in the Middle Ages:  Problems of Definition,” in Readers, Reading and Reception in Late-Medieval Devotional Literature, 2016.

“A Matter of Convenience:  Models of Devotional Reading in Nicholas Love’s Mirror,” in Readers, Reading and Reception in Late-Medieval Devotional Literature, 2016.

Book Review: Bryan, Jennifer. Looking Inward: Devotional Reading and the Private Self in Late Medieval England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), The Medieval Review. October 2008.  Quoted on book jacket.

Book Review:  Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women’s Writing, ed. Carolyn Dinshaw and David Wallace (Cambridge UP, 2003), Envoi:  A Review Journal of Medieval Literature 11:2 (Fall 2006; publ. 2008), 12pp.

“Women Reading and Reading Women:  Early Scribal Notions of Literacy in the Ancrene Wisse,Exemplaria (Fall 2004), 34 pp.

Book Review: After Augustine:  The Meditative Reader and the Text, by Brian Stock (U Penn, 2001), Envoi: A Review Journal of Medieval Literature (2003).


ESL 103:  ESL for Academic Studies I

This course prepares undergraduate ESL students for reading texts and writing critical responses in English. The course introduces the writing process, from composing essays to revising and editing in English. Students develop sentence-level skills in grammatical accuracy. Further, students develop skills in critical inquiry and increase their vocabulary through texts exploring themes in American culture.

ESL 104:  ESL for Academic Studies II

Building upon ESL for Academic Studies I, this course prepares undergraduate ESL students for reading texts and writing critical responses in English.  Students practice skills of academic writing while exploring and reading about themes related to American culture.  Students will develop an independent writing project with the aim of building skills and confidence in information gathering and reporting in English. Finally, students practice skills at the sentence level to prepare them for the demands of academic writing at the collegiate level.

FWS 121:  Heroes, Gods and Monsters:  Myths and the Modern World

How do myths function?  Human beings have always been mythmakers, creating stories about heroes, gods and monsters that instill our lives with meaning, explain our relationship to the spiritual world, and instruct us on how to live our lives.  Yet although mythical stories extend back thousands of years, they are typically dismissed as irrelevant to the modern world – an example of primitive, irrational or unscientific thinking.  This section of FWS explores the characteristics that defined heroes, gods and monsters in the ancient world, how this definition has changed over time, and where myths fit in the modern world.

ENG 151:  Creative Writing

In this class, we will think about what it means to write “creatively.” How is it different from writing “non-creatively”? We’ll look at and try to work with things that creative writers rely on to create their effects: images, characters, rhythms, metaphors, plots, and voices. We will read and work in three types of writing: creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. We’ll do some close reading of several pieces from each genre, in order to find out how each piece of writing “works,” and then practice these in class so that students can develop their own approach to the craft of creative writing

ENG 282:  Fairy Tales from Grimm to Disney and Beyond

This course explores fairy tales as universal phenomena and as articulations of the specific cultures out of which they arise. Why do certain stories seem to endure?  To answer this question, we will look at the components that make up fairy tales, and examine several well-known fairy tales (such as “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Cinderella”), We will explore the possible origins and various reinventions of these stories, as well as their meaning.  We will also consider their ever-changing roles in media and popular culture, and write an original fairy tale.

ENG 274:  The Mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is alive with marvelous details about elves and dwarves, hobbits and wizards, which in many ways became the measure for modern fantasy writing.  But Tolkien’s fantasy world is not entirely fiction.  It is informed to by his deep understanding of language, literature and mythology.  In this course, we will read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as well as some of Tolkien’s other works and explore the themes that captivated his imagination, such as the power of myth, the role of creativity in the world, the nature of beauty, evil and power, as well as the role of monsters in imagination.  Along the way, we will also explore how these issues may (or may not) have made it to the film version of Tolkien’s stories.

ENG 281:  The Versatile Musician I:  Professional Writing and Public Speaking

Musicians in the 21st century must be familiar with a wide variety of rhetorical skills, whether they are performers, scholars, composers, teachers, or ambassadors to the broader community.  This course explores the culture of professionalism in the United States, and how different contexts influence professional and academic discussions of music, with a particular emphasis on the resources offered in and around Eastman.  Speaking and writing assignments will focus on rhetorical skills involved in academic work, collaboration, concerts, lectures, and other events in the community.  The course is useful for advanced non-native speakers of English.  Students developing professional skills in an intercultural environment will also find this course useful.

ENG 282:  The Versatile Musician II:  Professional Writing and Public Speaking

Building on ENG 281, this capstone course is designed to refine the skills necessary for articulating a professional identity as musicians.  Working with authentic readings, students will explore problem-solving strategies for understanding the issues that face musicians in the 21st century, and the relationship between their performance and academic work.  In an individual research-based writing project, students will develop a project proposal that researches an aspect of their professional identity or repertoire in depth.  They will practice each stage of the writing and speaking process, delivering a range of speeches throughout the semester.  The goal is for students to move beyond formulaic approaches to achieve an authentic expression of their professional self.

ENG 282:  Children’s Literature

This course examines the history of award-winning and popular literature for children from preschool through adolescence.  The stories that we tell children serve a number of purposes:  teaching little girls and boys how to behave, helping them learn to read, conveying principles of specific belief systems, and, in some cases, imparting cues about social expectations of gender roles.  You might not think twice about a rhyme like “sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.”  But what about its counterpart, “snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of”?  This course explores these and other questions related to the genre of children’s literature.