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Sari Altschuler

headshot of Sari Altschuler

Associate Professor of English; Associate Director, Northeastern Humanities Center; Founding Director, Health, Humanities, and Society minor

Sari Altschuler’s research focuses primarily on American literature and culture before 1865, literature and medicine, disability studies, and the health humanities, broadly understood. She is the author of The Medical Imagination: Literature and Health in the Early United States (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) and co-editor of Keywords for Health Humanities (under contract with NYU in the press’s Keywords series) with Jonathan Metzl and Priscilla Wald. Her work has appeared in leading journals, including Early American Literature, Nineteenth-Century Literature, American Literature, American Literary History, PMLA, and the medical journal The Lancet. She serves on the advisory board of American Quarterly and the editorial boards of Early American Literature and American Literature. Her research has received awards from the Society of Early Americanists, the Society for the Historians of the Early American Republic, the Disability History Association, and the Library Company of Philadelphia and long-term funding from the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the American Antiquarian Society, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Wellesley College Newhouse Center for the Humanities. She was an assistant professor of English and core faculty member of the Center for the Study of Human Health at Emory University before joining the Northeastern faculty. During the 2019-2020 academic year, she was on leave as a faculty fellow at the Wellesley College Newhouse Center for the Humanities and an invited professor at Université de Paris – Paris Diderot.

Currently she directs Touch This Page! Making Sense of the Ways We Read, an award-winning multi-site and online exhibition about the multi-sensory experiences of reading with David Weimer, and chairs the Critical Health Humanities seminar at Harvard’s Mahindra Humanities Center with Amy Boesky and David Jones.

  • 1921 Prize for Best Essay in American Literature, The American Literature Society (2020)
  • Public Disability History Award – Disability History Association (2020)
  • Biennial Innovation Award – Library Company of Philadelphia (2019)
  • Invited Professor – Université Paris Diderot (Spring 2020)
  • Faculty Fellow, Newhouse Center for the Humanities – Wellesley College (2019 – 2020)
  • Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Inquiry (2015 – 2017)
  • The John B. Hench Post-Dissertation Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society (2013 – 2014)
  • Society of Early Americanists Essay Prize (2014)
  • Zuckerman Prize in American Studies (Runner-up) (2014)
  • Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) Dissertation Prize (2013)
  • The Barra Dissertation Fellowship at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania (2011 – 2012)
  • Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Dissertation Writing Fellowship (2011 – 2012) (declined)


  • The Medical Imagination: Literature and Health in the Early United States. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press (February 2018).

Edited Volumes

  • “Covid-19” A forum in American Literature, edited with Priscilla Wald 92.4 (December 2020).
  • “Early American Disability Studies.” Special Issue of Early American Literature, guest edited with Cristobal Silva 52.1 (Spring 2017).
  • “The Republics of Benjamin Rush.” Special Issue of Early American Studies, guest edited with Christopher Bilodeau 15.2 (Spring 2017).

Digital Humanities Project

  • “Touch This Page! Making Sense of the Ways We Read.” A collaboration between Northeastern University, Harvard University, and the Perkins School for the Blind. Co-directed with David Weimer. Co-PI with Daniel Cohen, Waleed Meleis, and David Weimer

Journal Articles and Essays

Teaching and Review Essays

  • Health (and the) Humanities in Early America.” Early American Literature 90.1 (Spring 2018).
  • “Medicine, Disability, and Early American Literature” in The Blackwell Companion to American Literature (Volume 1: to 1820). Ed. Susan Belasco, Theresa Strouth Gaul, Linck Johnson, and Michael Soto. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell (Spring 2018).
  • “Reading Disability in Hawthorne: Enabling Student Analyses of The Scarlet Letter” in Nathaniel Hawthorne in the College Classroom, Ed. Christopher Diller and Samuel Coale. Norwalk, CT: AMS Press, 2016, pp. 235-47.
  • Education

    PhD, 2012, City University of New York

  • Contact

  • Address

    450 Renaissance Park
    360 Huntington Avenue
    Boston, MA 02115

  • Office Hours

    9-10 am M / 9:30-10:30 am Th


Course catalog
  • Ability/Disability

    ENGL 4040

    This course will trace the emergence of a codified idea of disability—and, its counterpart, ability—in nineteenth-century literary texts like Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. We will focus not only on the development of representations of disability, but also the development of the idea of disability in relation to the changing circumstances of impaired individuals in the long nineteenth century. We will also consider how disability is shaped by race, class, and gender and in relation to issues such as labor, politics, and sexuality.

  • Explores the ways in which narrative and other forms of creative and cultural expression help shape conceptions of illness, healing, and the body. Culminates in the composition of reflective responses, a medical ethics/medical journalism piece, and a team-based experiential e-portfolio project. Course objectives include differentiating between healing and curing; knowing how to elicit, listen to, and analyze stories to determine how participants in the healthcare system experience illness and healing; being able to articulate the ways health is a cultural construct; and using this analysis to identify an empathic response as a future professional.

  • Narrative Medicine

    ENGL 2700

    Introduces students to the field of narrative medicine, which explores literary analysis as a set of tools for medical practice. Offers students an opportunity to develop close reading and analytical skills that are useful for improving doctor-patient relationships and patient care. Requires students to complete essays that cultivate these skills.

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