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Chistopher Leise

Christopher Leise

Professor of English, Chair of English

Christopher Leise grew up in Apalachin, NY, which is neither misspelled nor pronounced as you think it should be. Come to think of it, most people mispronounce both his hometown and his surname. He’s okay with that, but it’s supposed to be said like the rental agreement, “lease.” He earned a BA at Hofstra University in the year 2000 and a PhD in English and American Literature at SUNY-Buffalo in 2007. He then taught at Plattsburgh State University for two years (SUNY), where he spent hours staring over Lake Champlain looking for Champy, its certainly not mythical lake monster. He has not yet seen it. He joined Whitman’s faculty in 2009 and has failed to convince his children that there’s a cryptozoological creature residing in the Columbia River, but not from a lack of trying. In addition to teaching in the English Department, Professor Leise works closely with the Environmental Humanities program and offers courses which contribute to the Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies program.

Professor Leise enjoys blending teaching and scholarship, with an eye toward helping students become both independent innovators and creative collaborators. The proud father of two teenagers and a third child who’s getting there too quickly, he perhaps invests more emotion into the outcome of New York Knicks games than befits a grown man. Should you wish to be both perplexed and possibly very bored for a long period of time, ask him why he believes American Puritanism never existed. His modern and contemporary American literature courses focus on the built environment and on American Christianity respectively, in alternating years; he also teaches introductory literary studies, American Indian literatures, African American literature, a First-Year seminar on the “Candyman” horror franchise, and various special-topics courses. He tries not to spend too much of his time on email, owing to the aforementioned children (not to mention the Knicks and an Xbox habit he should probably feel more shame for indulging), but you should feel free to write him anyway if you have questions about his classes, Whitman’s English department, or the College generally.


The Story upon a Hill: The Puritan Myth in Contemporary American Fiction. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2017.

Pynchon’s Against the Day: A Corrupted Pilgrim’s Guide. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2011. Co-edited with Jeffrey Severs. Sole author, “Introduction,” 1-15.

William Gaddis, “The Last of Something”: Critical Essays. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010. Co-edited with Crystal Alberts and Birger Vanwesenbeeck.

Journal Articles

“Marilynne Robinson’s ‘Long Puritanism’ and Forms of Structural Racism,” Christianity and Literature 71.2 (June 2022): 156-171.

“The Tropological Infrastructure of Colson Whitehead’s Black Midwest,” Studies in the Novel 53.4 (Winter 2021): 405-426.

“Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Damming the Columbia and Traumatic Loss,” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 25.1 (Winter 2018): 62-79.

“Marilynne Robinson’s Perfect Game,” The Explicator 76.1 (Feb. 2018): 17-19.

“A Toast to Mr. Smiles: Chiasmus and Comitragedy in Suzan-Lori Parks’s Signified Faulkner,” MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the U.S. 40.2 (Summer 2015): 137-157. With Eleanor Gold, Whitman ’11.

“With Names, No Coincidence: Colson Whitehead’s Postracial Puritan Allegory,” African American Review 47.2-3 (Summer/Fall 2014): 285-300.

“The Eye-Ball and the Butterfly: Beauty and the Individual Soul in Emerson and Hawthorne,” Philological Quarterly 92.4 (Fall 2013): 471-497; reprinted in Short Story Criticism 227, Gale Research (2016).

“‘That Little Incandescence’: Reading the Fragmentary and John Calvin in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead,” Studies in the Novel 41.3 (Fall 2009): 348-367.

“‘Presto Change-o! Tyrone Slothrop’s English Again!’ Puritan Conversion, Imperfect Assurance, and the Salvific Sloth in Gravity’s Rainbow,” Pynchon Notes 56-57 (Spring-Fall 2009): 127-143.

Reference Entries

“New England ‘Pilgrim’ and ‘Puritan’ Cultures,” Oxford Bibliographies in American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. New York: Oxford University Press. August 23, 2022. https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199827251/obo-9780199827251-0111.xml

“East Coast,” in Thomas Pynchon in Context. Ed. Inger H. Dalsgaard. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019. 31-38. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108683784


A Vital Materialist goes to The Lego Movie,” Review-essay on Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things by Jane Bennett. (June 7, 2015).

Book Chapter

“‘The Power of Babel’: Art, Entropy, and the Collision of Discourse in the Novels,” in William Gaddis, “The Last of Something”: Critical Essays. Eds. Crystal Alberts, Christopher Leise, and Birger Vanwesenbeeck. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010. 35-50.

Alongside garnering twelve Whitman College-funded student-faculty collaborative research grants, with which he has taken students to such diverse destinations as academic conferences; Boston and Salem, MA; New York City; and Philadelphia; Professor Leise has earned the following awards:

Thomas D. Howells Award for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities and Arts, Whitman College (2022).

Co-Director, National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute (with Laurie Arnold, enrolled member of the Colville Tribe and history professor at Gonzaga University), “The Native American West: A Case Study of the Columbia Plateau,” hosted at Whitman College, June 17-July 1, 2018.

Humanities Washington Spark Grant (with Timothy Nitz, Superintendent, Whitman Mission National Historic Site), “Remembering the Whitmans’ Mission.”

Graves Award in the Humanities (for infusing scholarship in teaching), “Iroquois Modernism,” American Council of Learned Societies/Pomona College (Summer 2014).

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