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Purdue administrator Manushag Powell named new chair of ASU English department

Powell will begin her role leading ASU’s largest humanities unit this summer

Portrait of Manushag N. Powell

“ASU is a public university done right,” said Manushag N. Powell, incoming chair of ASU's English department. “I look forward to working with the faculty, staff, and students on our access mission.” Courtesy photo

April 04, 2024

Manushag N. “Nush” Powell, a literary historian and public scholar who most recently served as secretary of faculties and associate head of English at Purdue University, will be the next chair of the Department of English at Arizona State University. She will officially take the helm on July 1.

“Our Department of English is nationally known for setting the agenda for the future of humanities study, and I can think of no one better qualified to continue to build on that excellence than Nush,” said Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU. 

Powell is a lauded administrator and an expert in parliamentary procedure. At Purdue, she also served as director of graduate studies in English, as a member of the graduate council, and as faculty chair, secretary and parliamentarian of the College of Liberal Arts senate. She is currently the parliamentarian to the American Society for 18th-Century Studies and a member of the board of directors of the American Institute of Parliamentarians.

“I am thrilled and honored to be entrusted with a leadership position in ASU's Department of English,” Powell said. “The department is a thriving center of the very best research and teaching, and boasts a uniquely diverse portfolio of research areas, programs and initiatives.

“ASU is a public university done right,” Powell continued, alluding to the university’s charter values. “I look forward to working with the faculty, staff and students on our access mission.”

A professor of English and comparative literature, Powell’s academic interests are in 18th-century British literature and culture, which extends to historical publishing, women’s periodicals and narratives of piracy. 

Her books include “Performing Authorship in Eighteenth-Century English Periodicals” (Bucknell 2012), “British Pirates in Print and Performance” (with Frederick Burwick: Palgrave 2015) and “Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1690–1820s” (ed. with Jennie Batchelor: Edinburgh 2018). She is the editor of the Broadview Press edition of Daniel Defoe's “Captain Singleton” (2019), and plans a new edition of “The Buccaneers of America” for 2025. She is also the author of the Wondrium “The Real History of Pirates” course, and her essay on pirates and hook prosthetics will appear shortly in the Digital Defoe journal.

Powell earned a Bachelor of Arts in English literature at Yale University, and both a Master of Arts and PhD in English literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has taught at Purdue since 2007, where she earned tenure in 2013.

At Purdue, Powell taught courses in academic publishing, British literature and culture and — sure to be of interest to students at ASU — on dragons and piracy in literature and history. 

Powell will assume the ASU leadership role in one of the largest and most visible departments of English in the nation, recently recognized in U.S. News and World Report for its internship and career preparation program. The chairship is currently held by Foundation Professor Krista Ratcliffe, who has led the department since 2017. Ratcliffe will return to teaching after a research leave. 

“It’s my sincere belief that someday when some scholar writes an account of the transformation of humanities study for the decades ahead, they will look to ASU and the Department of English for how new models for success were articulated,” Cohen said. “Nush arrives at an opportune time to ensure that history is made here.”

About the Department of English

With degrees on the Tempe campus and online, ASU's Department of English offers six distinct areas of study: creative writing; English education; film and media studies; linguistics, applied linguistics and TESOL; literature; and writing, rhetorics and literacies. It also administers the university's first-year writing programs and houses a cross-humanities degree in culture, technology and environment.

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