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Dr. Katherine Ellison

Chair, Professor
Office Hours
Thursdays 11:30-12:30
  • About
  • Education
  • Awards & Honors
  • Research


A first-generation college graduate, I earned my BA in English from Indiana University-Indianapolis and my MA and PhD from Emory University. I am committed to helping students become critical readers and listeners, able to navigate our new world with resilience and joyful gratitude for the powers of the literate mind. I am passionate about history and its relevance today. In my archival investigations of the 17th and 18th centuries, I have found generations of women and writers from populations we have been taught never wrote or did not have intellectual freedom. They did. Often, they were the dominant voices of their generation, later silenced by acts of erasure. Let's break from these false assumptions about the past and use our knowledge of language, narrative, and storytelling to make a better future together.

Current Courses

110.001English Literature And Its Contexts

599.010Research And Dissertation

599.110Research And Dissertation Final Term

Teaching Interests & Areas

Trauma Studies, Media and Technology Studies, 17th- and 18th-Century Literature and Culture, Publishing Studies, Women Writers, Digital Humanities, AI and the Humanities

Research Interests & Areas

I study theories of historical trauma and the impact of technological mediation on the expression of suffering, with focus on the 17th and 18th centuries through the early 20th century. Recently, my work has explored secret writing and ciphering. I also work in media theory, book history, the history of women's writing, feminist theories of archival research, and disability studies, with interest in the history of representation of intellectual disabilities.

Ph D 18th-Century Literature

Emory University

MA 18th-Century Literature

Emory University

BA English

Indiana University

Outstanding College Researcher Award

College of Arts and Sciences

Outstanding College Teacher

College of Arts and Sciences

University Research Initiative Award

Illinois State University

Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarly Achievement, Pre-Tenure

Illinois State University

Department Nominee for Outstanding Teacher Award


Sigma Tau Delta Faculty Appreciation Award


College of Arts and Sciences Service Initiative Award, College Nominee


Red Tassel Mortar Board Faculty Appreciation Award


University Teaching Initiative Award


English Education “Great Teaching Strategy” Award


Book, Authored

Ellison, K. Secret Writing in the Long Eighteenth Century: Theories and Practices of Cryptology. Cambridge University Press (2022)

Katherine Ellison and Susan Kim, eds. A Material History of Medieval and Modern Ciphers:  Cryptography and the History of Literacy. London and New York:  Routledge, 2017.

Ellison, Katherine. A Cultural History of Early Modern English Cryptography Manuals. New York: Routledge, 2016.
Ellison, Katherine, Kincade, Kit, and Nelson, Holly Faith, Co-Editors. Topographies of the Imagination: New Approaches to Defoe. New York: AMS Press, 2014.
Ellison, Katherine. Fatal News: Reading and Information Overload in Early Eighteenth-Century Literature. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Book, Chapter

Ellison, K. "Academic Exhaustion and the Afterlife of John Matthews Manly and Edith Rickert.". Collaborative Humanities Research and Pedagogy: The Networks of John Matthews Manly and Edith Rickert. Palgrave Macmillan (2022)
Ellison, K. "Finding Connection in the Nomadic Life of Scholarship: John Matthews Manly's Letters and Unpublished Essays.". Katherine Ellison and Susan Kim (EDs), Collaborative Humanities Research and Pedagogy: The Networks of John Matthews Manly and Edith Rickert. Palgrave Macmillan (2022)
Ellison, K. "Early Modern Ciphering and the Expression of Trauma". Cynthia Richards and Erin Peters (EDs), Early Modern Trauma: Europe and the Atlantic World. University of Nebraska Press (2021)
Ellison, K. "Ciphers and Gaming in Pleasure and War.". Holly Faith Nelson and James William Daems (EDs), The Games of War in British and American Literature, 1600-1830. Amsterdam University Press (2019)
Ellison, K. "Afterword: The Critical Legacy of Medieval and Early Modern Cryptography before and after World War I.". A Material History of Medieval and Early Modern Ciphers. Routledge (2017)

Journal Article

Ellison, K. "Defoe and the Chatbot: The Emotional Avoidance of Predictive Prose.". Digital Defoe: Studies in Defoe & His Contemporaries 15.1 (2024)
Ellison, K. "Media Scholarship and Eighteenth-Century Studies.". Literature Compass (2017): 1-12.
Ellison, Katherine. “’1144000727777607680000 wayes’: Early Modern Cryptography and Fashionable Mathematics.” The Journal of the Northern Renaissance. 6 (2014):
Ellison, Katherine. “Digital Scholarship as Handwork and Brainwork: An Early Modern History of Cryptography.” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies. 13.4 (Fall 2013). 29-46.
Ellison, Katherine. “Millions of Millions of Distinct Orders: Multimodality in Seventeenth-Century Cryptography Manuals.” Book History. 14 ( Fall 2011): 1-24.


“Defoe and the Hypothetical.” Defoe Society Conference; York, UK, July 2, 2019.
“From 1719 to 2019: Daniel Defoe’s Legacy in the Public Opinion of Intelligence and Cryptology.” NSA Symposium on Cryptologic History; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, October 18, 2019.