Berkeley English Lecturers and Postdocs

Kenneth Speirs

Kenneth Speirs


478 Wheeler
TH 2-3:30 and by appointment

Professional Statement

Kenneth Speirs earned his Ph.D. from New York University in 1998.  After completing his dissertation, he moved to Asia, where he lived and taught for three years at universities in Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei.  He returned to New York City in the fall of 2001, where he worked as an assistant professor of English at the City University of New York, Kingsborough Community College campus.  Professor Speirs is a nineteenth century Americanist with expertise in the uses of life writing.  His dissertation, entitled ’The Deadly Space Between’:  Union and Mediation in the Narrative Imagination of Herman Melville, asserts the importance of both historical and biographical contexts in understanding Melville’s preoccupation with the problem of human communion.  A Mellon fellowship at the Humanities Center, CUNY from 2002-03 allowed him to work on his new book project, entitled Staking a Claim:  Writing the American West, 1840-1940about autobiography in the American West.  The first chapter of this manuscript, entitled “Writing Self (Effacingly):  E-race-d Presences in The Life and Adventures of Nat Love,” appears in Western American Literature (Fall 2005).  His recent book, entitled Mixing It Up:  Multiracial Subjects, co-edited with SanSan Kwan and published by the University of Texas Press, gathers a number of essays that give various perspectives on the topic of mixed race.  Awarded a Fulbright grant in China for spring 2009, Professor Speirs has also received fellowships from the National Humanities Center at Yale University and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Selected Publications and Papers Delivered


“Writing Self (Effacingly):  E-race-d Presences in The Life and Adventures of Nat Love.”  Western American Literature.  (Fall 2005):  301-320.

“Strategies of Approximation in The Life and Adventures of Nat Love.”  BMa:  The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review.  (Fall 2003):  71-88.

“Hidden Intellectualism:  Faulkner’s ‘Barn Burning’ and the (Argument) Bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, May 7, 1999.”  Transformations:  The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy.  (Fall 2001):  41-49.

“In My Tar-and-Feathery Dignity:  Textual (Mis) Practices and Literary Studies in Taiwan.”  Pedagogy:  Critical Approaches to Teaching, Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture.  (Fall 2001):  531-534.

“Who Ain't an Ishmael?:  Moby-Dick and the Visual Imagination in China.”  Leviathan:  A Journal of Melville Studies.  (October 2000):  101-109.

“Scriptural Stones and Barn Mending:  At Herman Melville's Grave.”  Markers:  Journal of Gravestone Studies.  Richard E. Meyer, editor(Greenfield, MA:  Association for Gravestone Studies, 1998):  30-37.

“Herman Melville’s Collapse:  Secrets and Revelations, 1851-1861.”  Henry Street:  A Graduate Review of Literary Studies.  (Fall 1997):  53-70.


“Finding Ourselves in Deadwood.”  Western Literature Association, Los Angeles, October 2005.

“Discursive Frontiers:  Individual and National Unity in John Rollin Ridge’s The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta.”  Western Historical Association, Las Vegas, October 2004.

“E-race-ing Presences:  Textual and Pictorial Tensions in The Life and Adventures of Nat Love.”  Black Travel Writing Conference, Howard University, Washington D.C., April 2003.

“New Intellectual Identities:  Nexusing Hidden Intellectualism.”  Community College Humanities Association Eastern Division Conference, New York, October 2002.

“A Question of Evidence:  The Life in the Tales of Herman Melville.”  American Studies Graduate Student Association, CUNY Graduate Center, New York, October 2002.

“’How Many Steps Lead to Your Front Door?’:  (Re) Re-inscription and the Poems of Angel Island.”  Association for Asian American Studies, Salt Lake City, April 2002.

“The Writer’s Life, the Writer’s Work.”  Beijing International Conference on Auto/Biography, Beijing University, June 1999.

"Having the Colonist for Dinner:  Amalgamation and Cannibalism in Herman Melville's Typee."  Melville Society Panel, Modern Language Association, Toronto, Ontario, December 1997.

"When New Teachers Meet New Students:  The Role of the Mentor in Teacher Training."  Central New York Conference on Language and Literature, Cortland, New York, October 1997.

"Stoneless Graves and Shoreless Truths:  Herman Melville's 'The Lee Shore.'"  The Melville Society Panel at the American Literature Association, Baltimore, Maryland, May 1997.

"Stuck with My Language, Questioning My Culture:  International Students and New Americans in Writing Workshop."  Conference on College Composition and Communication, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, March 1996.


Wallace, Robert K.  Frank Stella’s “Moby-Dick”:  Words and Shapes, in American Studies International.  (October 2001):  90-92.

Renker, Elizabeth.  Strike Through the Iron Mask:  Herman Melville and the Scene of Writing, Sheila Post-Lauria’s Correspondent Colorings:  Melville in the Marketplace, and Russ Castronovo’s Fathering the Nation:  American Genealogies of Slavery and Freedom, in American Studies.  (Spring 2001): 172-175.

Otter, Samuel.  Melville’s Anatomies, in Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies.  (1999):  669-672.

Melville, Herman.  Correspondence:  The Writings of Herman Melville, in American Studies International.  (October 1999):  121-123.

Schultz, Elizabeth.  Unpainted to the Last:  “Moby-Dick” and Twentieth-Century American Art, in American Studies.  (Fall 1999):  173-174.

Current Research

Staking a Claim:  Writing the American West, 1840-1940.  This manuscript uses the life writing of a black cowboy, a Latino “bandit,” a group of Chinese immigrants, and the first woman to climb Pike’s Peak, among others, in order to investigate how the story of the West has been produced and received.  Why are certain stories of the West buried while others are elevated?  What do the various stories reveal about the groups and individuals who created them, and the spaces that inspired them?  What is the place of these stories within the larger national narrative of the West? 

English Department Classes

No recent courses taught.