Photo of Edward Watts. Older man with full goatee, wearing button up shirt.

Edward Watts

Early American Studies | 19th Century American Literature

Office: C609 Wells Hall 
Phone: (517) 432-0905


Edward Watts has been teaching at Michigan State since 1993 and joined in Department of English in 2004. Trained at Indiana University in English and American Studies, his work has long focused on repositioning the literary and cultural history of the United States through the lens of Settler Colonial Studies, especially before 1900. His many books and projects have drawn especially on the colonization of the many “wests” and its various peoples and narratives. To explore these subjects, he has worked in Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand (Aotearoan) literatures as well as those from the Midwest and Michigan. His current book projects include editing an unpublished manuscript novel of an abolitionist describing events in what is now West Virginia leading up to the Civil War, a scholarly book on how nineteenth-century Indigenous writers depicted settlers, and a comparative study of the origins of Anglophone settler literatures throughout the dominions. He will become emeritus faculty in 2020.

His faculty service includes many external manuscript and article reviews and he serves on the Editorial Board of Early American Literature. In 2008, with NEH and Indiana Humanities Council grants, he organized and co-hosted Prophetstown Revisited, a conference marking the bicentennial of the founding of Tecumseh’s Pan-Tribal village.  From 2010-2014 as Associate Chair, he directed the Department’s Undergraduate Program. In CAL, he has served CAC (chair), RPT (chaired four times), the CCC, the IAH advisory board, and co-developed the HARP program. At MSU, he has served on the UCC, the UCFT, the University Appeals Board, and the University Steering Committee.

His teaching has ranged from general education to graduate classes. These have spread from work in his field in upper level classes to a longstanding IAH course on the history and culture of Michigan. He has often taught 210, 354, 320, 484, and many others. Writing and writing instruction is always central to his pedagogy, reflecting his long tenure in the defunct ATL program.

Single-Authored Books

Colonizing the Past: Myth-Making and Pre-Columbian Whites in Nineteenth-Century American Writing (forthcoming: University of Virginia Press, 2020)

In This Remote Country: Colonial French Culture in the Anglo-American Imagination, 1780-1860 (University of North Carolina Press, 2006).

An American Colony: Regionalism and the Roots of Midwestern Culture. (Ohio University Press, 2002) Winner, Midwestern Literature Book Prize.

Writing and Postcolonialism in the Early Republic. (University Press of Virginia, 1998) Nominated for MLA First Book Award, 1999.

The Indian’s White Man: The Settler as Subject in Writing by Indigenous Americans, 1770-1900 (just begun)


Editor, Cannel Coal Oil Days: A Reminiscence of the War of Rebellion by Theophile Maher (under review West Virginia University Press)

Lead-Editor with Keri Holt and John Funchion, Mapping Region in Early American Writing (University of Georgia, 2015)

Lead-Editor with David Carlson, John Neal and Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture (Bucknell University, 2012).

Co-Editor with Malini Johar Schueller, Messy Beginnings: Postcoloniality and Early American Studies (Rutgers University, 2003).

Lead-Editor with David Rachels, The First West: American Frontier Writing, 1776-1860. (Oxford UP, 2002).

Editor, The Indian Hater and Other Stories by James Hall (Kent State University Press, 2009)

Selected Articles and Book Chapters (2009-      )

“Indigenous Intellectuals and the Colonization of the Midwest: Copway, Warren, Pokagon, Blackbird.” Midwestern Intellectual History Madison House, 2019, forthcoming)

“Afterword” The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper. (Signet Classics, 2019, forthcoming).

 “The New Histories of Old Wisconsin,” Midwestern Historical Review

“The Wish for a White West” and “Introduction,” Mapping Region (Georgia UP 2015)

“John Neal and the Indian Hater Tradition” and “Introduction,” John Neal and Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture (Bucknell, 2012)

“Early Writing: Exploring to Fiction,” Blackwell Companion to Literature of the American West, (Wiley, 2011). Invited.

“Settler Postcolonialism as a Reading Strategy,” American Literary History (Summer 2010) and Early American Literature (Fall 2010). Invited.

“Re-Centering the Center,” American Literary History (Winter 2009)

“The Midwest as a Settler Colony,” Regionalism and the Humanities (Nebraska, 2009). Invited.


HWW Kick-Off. Invited Keynote, 2014.


ENG210: Introduction to the Study of English
ENG211H: Honors Foundation in Literary Studies
ENG314: Readings in American literature
ENG320B: Methods in Literary History
ENG441: Seminar in American Literature to 1820
ENG442: Seminar in American Literature 1820–1865
ENG492: Special Topics: Australian and Pacific Literature
ENG820: Traveling and Travel Writing
IAH207: Literature, Cultures, and Identities