Humanities and Arts

Contact Information

Salisbury Laboratories, SL223D
Phone: +1-508-831-5383
Fax: +1-508-831-5932

Kent P. Ljungquist

In his John Caldwell Lecture in the Humanities delivered to the North Carolina Humanities Council, Richard H. Broadhead, president of Duke University, the institution where Kent Ljungquist did his graduate study, offered this definition of humanistic study: "The humanities are a name for the process by which all things humans have made, said, thought, and done come back to spark the understandings of other humans across time." The “made” things that fascinate Professor Ljungquist are novels, poems, short stories, memoirs, and other forms of literary expression that illuminate and help readers to inhabit the mental spaces outside themselves. When these works of literature affect audiences with sufficient intensity of feeling, readers have a chance to be changed.

Since his years in graduate school, Ljungquist has had a unique fascination for the works of Edgar Allan Poe, and at WPI he teaches courses and seminars on supernatural fiction. He surveys the broad spectrum of American literature, and also teaches courses on realism and regional authors. While much of his research has focused on literary Gothicism, he has published on a range of American authors: James Russell Lowell, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Fenimore Cooper, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Frederic S. Cozzens, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, Edith Wharton, Mary Hallock Foote, Esther Forbes, S. N. Behrman, and former U. S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz. He has particularly enjoyed doing archival research at repositories like the American Antiquarian Society and the Firestone Library at Princeton University. As part of his archival discoveries, he has edited for publication previously unknown letters and documents by Poe, Lowell, Longfellow, and Emerson.

Professor Ljungquist enjoys teaching his lecture courses, but in WPI's Inquiry Seminars, he is impressed by the nice balance struck between the chosen seminar topic and the capacity of his students to pursue independently their more specific topics and extended writing assignments. The topics of those seminars--Gothic and fact-based fiction--often lead to spirited and vigorous discussion.

An honorary member of the Poe Studies Association and a member of the American Antiquarian Society, Professor Ljungquist serves on the editorial boards of the Edgar Allan Poe Review, Poe Studies: Dark Romanticism, Gothic Literary Studies, and Literature in the Early American Republic. He follows the regional professional sports teams. He also listens to classical music and has pursued book collecting (early and first editions of 19th- and 20th-century authors) as an extension of his academic interests. The latter two activities reflect Professor Ljungquist’s interest in the humanities as part of what Broadhead would call "the interplay of human making and receiving."

Research Interests

  • Gothic and Supernatural Fiction
  • Worcester-Area Writers
  • Regional Writing
  • Documentary and Textual Studies
  • Edgar Allan Poe's Works and Influence


  • BA, Clark University, 1970
  • MA, English, University of Connecticut, 1972
  • PhD, English, Duke University, 1975

Featured Publications

  • "Lectures and the Lyceum Movement," Oxford Handbook to Transcendentalism, ed. Joel Myerson. New York: Oxford UP. 2010. 330-347.
  • The History of Woodbury and Company, edited with James Hanlan and Rodney Obien. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2007.
  • "The Poet as Critic," Cambridge Companion to Poe Studies, ed. Kevin Hayes. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002. 29-45,
  • Ethan Frome and Selected Fiction by Edith Wharton. Introduction and Notes. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004.
  • Antebellum Writers in the South, editor. Detroit: Gale Resarch, 2001. Outstanding volume for that year in DLB series.

View a Complete List (.pdf, 240kb)

Professional Highlights

  • Trustees' Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship, 1998.
  • Interview, Edgar A. Poe's Birthplace, "All Things Considered," NPR, January 2009.
  • Outstanding Academic Advisor, Tau Beta Pi, 1994.
  • Honorary Member, Poe Studies Association, 1997-.
  • Paris Fletcher Professor of Humanities, 1999-2000.
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