Cassandra J. Cleghorn

Cassandra Cleghorn

Chair and Senior Lecturer in American Studies and English

Stetson Hall Rm 506



I began teaching at Williams in 1990, while I was completing my dissertation at Yale in American Studies. My PhD thesis, “Seeing Through Doing Good,” took as its point of entry the evident obsession of 19th-century U.S. writers with the limits of charity to make meaningful social change. At Yale, I gravitated to courses on social class, the history of photography, and the culture of consumption. This interdisciplinary program built on the work I did as an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, where I majored in Classics, graduating summa cum laude in Greek.

 As a Senior Lecturer at Williams, I enjoy the freedom to write outside of disciplinary and scholarly bounds. My first collection of poems, Four Weathercocks, was published by Marick Press in 2016. Copies are available for the asking. My second book, A Stay Against Want, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry, one of the top literary presses in Ireland. 

Teaching and Mentoring

By rough estimate, I’ve taught well over 2,000 Williams students, many of whom have stayed in touch and are now my friends. In American Studies, I teach the core courses and electives at every level. I am currently the Chair of American Studies. My favorite Winter Study course recently was Typewriters, documented in this short film: For the past nine years, I’ve enjoyed teaching the writing component of the Summer Science Program. In the English department, I teach a range of courses about U.S. literatures and writing, both creative and critical: Expository Writing, Personal Essay, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, and Introduction to Creative Writing. My new tutorial, Let the Record Show, explores literature of witness and affective, data-driven journalism from W.E.B. DuBois to Sarah Schulman.

For me, teaching is always also a chance to mentor. I especially enjoy mentoring the first gen students and students of color who are drawn to my classes. As the daughter of a brilliant mom who did not go to college, I have a keen understanding of what it’s like to experience education as a gift that also divides. I welcome conversation with anyone about this.

Literary Citizenship

For the past fifteen years, I’ve served as the Poetry Editor of Tupelo Press (North Adams, MA), one of the top independent literary presses in the U.S. This job brings me into contact with hundreds of writers, and thousands of pages of others’ writing. Editing and helping to run literary workshops is another form of mentoring, draining at times, but also deeply rewarding. I also work as a reviewer of published poetry books. In addition to my work as a regular reviewer for Publishers Weekly (specializing in experimental poetry and work by writers of color), I write reviews for many of the most important literary journals in the country.


When I’m not reading or writing or teaching, I’m playing Irish/French Canadian fiddle, quilting/sewing, or hiking with my husband (Jeffrey) and my two dogs (Elsie and Barley). I am always happy to talk about/teach textile arts, and to make time for “dog therapy.” Feel free to drop by my office, Stetson 506, or contact me for an appointment at [email protected].




B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz (1983)
M.A. Yale University (1988)
Ph.D. Yale University, American Studies (1995)

Areas of Expertise

Poetry, American Studies, Music


AMST 149 / ENGL 149 SEM

First-Hand America (not offered 2024/25)


The Personal Essay
(not offered 2024/25)

Research Interests

19th-century American literature, philosophy and culture (especially photography and architecture); personal essay/creative nonfiction; American poetry and music; inter-arts collaboration.