Tara Penry

tpenry@boisestate.edu | LA-209E

Dr. Penry came to Boise State in 2000, having taught previously at Whitman College and the University of Maine at Presque Isle. An early fan of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, she discovered women writers and magazines from the nineteenth-century American west in graduate school and has been an Americanist ever since. She edited the Boise State Western Writers Series from 2000 to 2006 and its successor Western Writers Online from 2013 to 2015. In 2006, she served as president of the Western Literature Association and hosted that organization’s annual conference in Boise. She has published articles on nineteenth-century western literary magazines, on sentimentalism in writers ranging from Herman Melville to Terry Tempest Williams and William Kittredge, and other topics. Supported by a 2015 Research Fellowship from the Idaho Humanities Council, she is preparing a critical book manuscript about short story writer Bret Harte. Originally a Washingtonian, she lives in Boise with her husband and two children.


  • Ph.D., English, Fordham University


Nineteenth-century literary periodicals of the U.S.; literary history of affect in the West; literature of the California Gold Rush; sentimentalism, gender, and popular culture

Recent Publications

  • “Contrast and Contradiction: The Emergent West in Crèvecoeur’s Regional Theory,” in Amy T. Hamilton and Tom J. Hillard, eds, Before the West Was West: Critical Essays on Pre-1800 Literature of the American Frontiers (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014), 239-62.
  • “A Motorcar Runs Through It: A Triptych Study of Thomas Wolfe’s West,” Thomas Wolfe Review 37.1-2 (2013): 110-18 and poster insert. Features research by undergraduate interns (now BSU English graduates) Cindy Sikkema and Joe Cavanaugh.
  • “Progressive Foote? Gender Politics in an 1887 Letter from Mary Hallock Foote,” Western Writers Online, Fall 2013. http://scholarworks.boisestate.edu/wwo/2/.
  • “The Literate West of Nineteenth-Century Periodicals,” in Nicolas Witschi, ed, A Companion to the Literature and Culture of the American West (Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 48-62. Book named a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title.
  • “The Chinese in Bret Harte’s Overland: A Context for Truthful James,” American Literary Realism 43.1 (Fall 2010): 74-82.


  • ENGL 378 American Realism
  • ENGL 384 Literature of the American West
  • ENGL 278 Survey of American Literature: Civil War to Present

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