Photo of Ellen Pollak. Older woman with shoulder length curled grey hair, wearing glasses, a blue beaded necklace and a purple blouse.

Ellen Pollak

Emeritus Professor
Feminist Theory | Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture


Ph.D. Columbia University, 1979
M.A. Columbia University, 1971
B.A. Bennington College, 1970

Ellen Pollak taught in the MSU English Department as Associate Professor from 1989 until 2003 and as Professor from 2003 until her retirement in 2012.  She served as Associate Chairperson for Graduate Studies from 2004-2008.  Prior to her tenure at MSU, she held appointments as Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania (1980-88) and as a Mellon Faculty Fellow in the Humanities at Harvard University (1988-89).  She has held fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson, Danforth, and Ford Foundations and was awarded a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies. Her fields of interest include eighteenth-century British literature and culture, feminist theory, early women writers, and the emergence of the early English novel.  

She is the author of two scholarly books: 

The Poetics of Sexual Myth: Gender and Ideology in the Verse of Swift and Pope (Chicago 1985)

Incest and the English Novel, 1684–1814 (Johns Hopkins 2003)

She is also contributing editor of A Cultural History of Women in the Age of Enlightenment, volume 4 of a six-volume Cultural History of Women published by Bloomsbury in 2013 and now available in paper. 


“Daring to Know,” Introduction to A Cultural History of Women in the Age of Enlightenment, ed. Ellen Pollak (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 3-27.

Interview in “5 Women 50 Years,” Muses Magazine: MSU College of Arts and Letters Alumni Magazine (2013) 

“The Future of Feminist Theory and Eighteenth Century Studies,” The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation (a special issue on The Future of Feminist Theory in Eighteenth-Century Studies, ed. Laura J. Rosenthal) 50.1(2009): 13-20.  

“Gender and Fiction in Moll Flanders and Roxana” in The Cambridge Companion to Defoe, ed. John          J. Richetti (Cambridge, 2008), pp. 139-57.

“’Postlude’ to Literary Women” in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 24.3 (Spring 1999): 739-47. [Part of a forum entitled “Commemorating Literary Women: Ellen Moers and Feminist Criticism after Twenty Years.”]

“Premium Swift: Dorothy Parker’s Iron Mask of Femininity” in Pope, Swift,and Women  Writers.  Ed. Donald C. Mell.  Newark: University of Delaware Press , 1996, pp. 203-21.

“Swift Among the Feminists: An Approach to Teaching.” College Literature 19.1(February 1992): 114-20.

Moll Flanders, Incest, and the Structure of Exchange.”  The Eighteenth-Century: Theory and          Interpretation 30.2 (Spring 1989): 3-21.         

“Feminism and the New Historicism: A Tale of Difference or the Same Old Story?” The Eighteenth-Century Theory and Interpretation 29.3 (Fall 1988): 281-86.

“Pope and Sexual Difference: Woman as Part and Counterpart in the ‘Epistle to a Lady.'” Studies in     English Literature 24 (Summer 1984): 461-81.   (Recipient of the 1982 Florence Howe Award for the year’s best essay on women and literature). 


What Was the Enlightenment? (Integrative Studies in Arts and Humanities)
Theory and Practice of Feminist Literary Criticism
Development of the English Novel
The Subject of Knowledge: Gender, Epistemology and the Early English Novel
Women and the Problem of Incest (Women Studies capstone course)
Burney, Edgeworth, Austen (Doctoral Seminar)
Family, Sexuality, and the Rise of the Novel
Gender and Print (18th Century Doctoral Seminar)
Women and Literature
Rewriting the Canon: Studies in Intertextuality (Honors Seminar)