Cynthia Schoolar Williams began teaching at Wentworth part-time in the fall of 2012 and has also taught at Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A native of Texas, she grew up in Houston and on a farm outside the city. With family members who are scientists, engineers, designers, and builders, she feels at home among the eclectic interests of Wentworth students.
Williams earned a bachelor’s degree in the History of Ideas from Princeton University, a master’s in English from the University of Louisville, and a Ph.D. in English from Tufts University. Her first book, Hospitality and the Transatlantic Imagination, 1815-1835, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014. Taking up Kant’s belief that hospitality is key to world peace, the book explores a range of literary works that resisted the growing nationalisms of the nineteenth century by reimagining scenes of welcome.
In more recent projects, Williams’s scholarly focus has shifted toward the eco-historical, exploring Romantic-era origins of the Anthropocene. Work with this emphasis includes conference presentations on Mary Shelley’s novel Lodore and Washington Irving’s A Tour on the Prairies (in both of which the notions of displacement, the national history of the U.S., and nature writing converge), as well as a brief article on the gas illumination of London. Likewise, Williams’s teaching and service have reflected this new concern with ecology and sustainability. In 2018, her interdisciplinary course on the global climate crisis of 1816 won the Pedagogy Prize awarded annually by the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism. An essay on the course she has now taught twice on climate change and the humanities will appear in a pedagogy volume forthcoming from the MLA.
Since July of 2019, Williams has served as Director of the Colleges of the Fenway Center for Sustainability and the Environment. Through work with the consortium, she and colleagues from Simmons University and the Massachusetts Audubon Society recently received a grant from Bringing Theory to Practice for a project titled “Climate Justice in Environmental Education,” which will take undergraduates into Boston Public Schools.
Williams has presented her work to the Modern Language Association, the American Literature Association, the International Conference on Romanticism, the Nineteenth Century Studies Association, and the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism.