department of english

114 Swan Hall, 60 Upper College Road, Kingston, RI 02881

Main Office: 401.874.5931 - Graduate Office: 401.874.4663

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Karen Stein

  • Professor Emerita
  • Author of Reading, Learning, Teaching Toni Morrison
  • Phone: 401.874.9018, Office: 208B Swan Hall
  • Email:


Professor Stein publishes on contemporary North American women writers, especially Margaret Atwood and Toni Morrison. She is especially interested in the ways that contemporary women writers inflect Gothic themes and motifs. On two occasions, Professor Stein was honored with the Woman of the Year award from two organizations: the URI Association of Professional and Academic Women in 1993, and the Rhode Island Commission on Women in 2007. She has served as Chair of the English Department and Director of the Women’s Studies Program at URI. She received a sabbatical and a Humanities Faculty Fellowship from URI in 2008-2009.

Graduate Courses taught include: ENG 510, Introduction to Professional Studies, a course designed to explore research strategies, to familiarize students with the culture and practices of academic institutions, and to prepare students for entering the academic profession.

Undergraduate courses taught include: ENG 368 The BibleENG 260 Women and Literature – topics vary. Most recent topic was fiction by North American women writers. .

Recent publications include: Margaret Atwood Revisited. Twayne, 1999 as well as two essays in Margaret Atwood’s Textual Assassinations: Recent Poetry and Fiction, edited by Sharon Rose Wilson. Ohio State University Press, 2003: “Talking Back to Bluebeard: Margaret Atwood’s Fictional Storytellers,” pp. 154-171 and “Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin: A Left-Handed Story,” pp. 135-153.

Professor Stein published Reading, Learning, Teaching Toni Morrison in 2009. Intended as a resource for students and teachers, the book draws on contemporary scholarship and Morrison’s own commentary to explicate all of her novels published to date, including her 2008 novel A Mercy. Morrison won th
e Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Her profound and complex novels address problems such as slavery, violence, poverty, and sexual abuse. Morrison’s work encompasses a project of total cultural renewal: she re-imagines and reaffirms the experience of African Americans from the earliest days of slavery up to the present, avoiding stereotypes or oversimplification. She employs African and Western literary traditions and conventions as a basis for both structure and critique, re-writing some of the “master narratives” of American culture and history. Stein’s book analyzes Morrison’s novels in the context of African American history and literature, and provides supplemental material to guide teachers and students to understand and appreciate Morrison’s novels.

Professor Stein published Rachel Carson in 2012. Rachel Carson is the twentieth century’s most significant environmentalist. Her books about the sea blend science and poetry as theyinvite readers to share her celebration of the ocean’s wonders. Silent Spring, her compelling exposé of the damage caused by the widespread aerial spraying of persistent organic pesticides such as DDT, opened our eyes to the interconnectedness of all living beings and the ecological systems we inhabit. Carson’s work challenges our belief that science and technology can control the natural world, asks us to recognize our place in the world around us, and inspires us to treat the earth respectfully. She calls us to rekindle our sense of wonder at nature’s power and beauty, and to tread lightly on the earth so that it will continue to sustain us and our descendants.

Professor Stein is currently writing a critical study of the life and works of feminist poet and theorist Adrienne Rich.

Visit Professor Stein’s publications page


  • Ph.D., University of Connecticut
  • M.A., Pennsylvania State University
  • MLIS, University of Rhode Island
  • B.A., Brooklyn College

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