Karen Halttunen

Professor Emerita of History
Email halttune@email.usc.edu Office SOS 164 Office Phone (213) 740-1682

Research & Practice Areas

19th Century Cultural and Intellectual History of the US, Early American History.


  • Ph.D. , Yale University, 1/1979
  • B.A. History and Religious Studies, Brown University, 1973
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Professor of History, University of Southern California, 2004 –
    • Professor of History, University of California, Davis, 1991 – 2004
    • Professor of History and American Culture, Northwestern University, 1990-1991
    • Associate Professor of History, Northwestern University, 1983 – 1990
    • Assistant Professor of History, Northwestern University, 1979 – 1983
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Karen Halttunen is a professor of U.S. cultural and intellectual history. She is the author of “Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830-1870” (1982) and “Murder Most Foul: The Killer and the American Gothic Imagination (1998).” Her current work is on landscape and antiquity in 19th century New England.

    Research Keywords

    U.S. Cultural History, U.S. Intellectual History, 19th Century U.S. History, Early American History

  • Conference Presentations

    • “Wild Apples: Nature and History in Thoreau’s New England” Lecture/Seminar, American Studies and the History Department, Invited, University of Michigan, Fall 2009
    • “Chocorua’s Curse: Indians, Native Place, and the Making of the New England Landscape” Lecture/Seminar, Hart Institute, Invited, Pomona College, Spring 2009
    • “Edgar Allan Poe and the Invention of Detective Fiction” Talk/Oral Presentation, Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site, Invited, Philadelphia, PA, Spring 2009
    • “Shaking Hands with the Cave Man: A Comment” , Capturing the Moment: Visual Evidence and Eye WitnessingTalk/Oral Presentation, USC Visual Studies and UCLA History Department, Invited, UCLA, Spring 2009
    • “A Practiced Eye in the Survey of Places: Natural Histories of the New England Town” Lecture/Seminar, Institute for Humanities Research, Invited, UC Santa Cruz, Spring 2008
    • “Extramural Support for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences” Talk/Oral Presentation, Institute for Humanities Research, Invited, UC Santa Cruz, Spring 2008
  • Book

    • Boyer, P. S., Clark, C., Halttunen, K., Kett, J. F., Salisbury, N., Sitkoff, H., Woloch, N. (2010). The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People. Wadsworth Cengage.
    • Halttunen, K.New England Groundwork: Nature, History, and Local Place 1790-1876.
    • Halttunen, K. (1998). Murder Most Foul: The Killer and the Gothic Imagination. Harvard University Press.
    • Halttunen, K., Perry, L. (1998). Moral Problems in American Life: New Essays on Cultural History. (Halttunen, Karen, Ed.). Cornell University Press.
    • Halttunen, K. (1983). Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830-1870. Yale University Press.

    Book Chapter

    • Halttunen, K. (2009). Groundwork: American Studies in Place in American Studies Association Presidential Addresses. Peter Lang Publishers.
    • Halttunen, K. (2009). The Art of Listening. Chicago, IL: The Cultural Turn in US History: Past, Present, Future.
    • Halttunen, K. (2008). American Tintypes and the Decline of Victorian Middle-Class Gentility. pp. 27-33. New York, NY: American Tintypes.


    • Halttunen, K. (2008). K12 Outreach or K16 Collaboration?. George Mason University. US Department of Education Clearinghouse for American History Education. Link to Online Article

    Journal Article

    • Halttunen, K. (2011). Grounded Histories: Land and Landscape in Early America. William and Mary Quarterly. Vol. 68 (4), pp. 513-532.
    • Halttunen, K. (2010). Shaking Hands with the Cave Man. Journal of Visual Culture. Vol. 9 (3), pp. 304-306.
    • Halttunen, K. (2007). Transnationalism and American Studies in Place. Japanese Journal of American Studies.
    • Halttunen, K. (2006). Groundwork: American Studies in Place. American Quarterly.
    • Halttunen, K. (2006). Groundwork: American Studies in Place—Presidential Address to the American Studies Association, November 4, 2005. American Quarterly (March 2006). Vol. 1-15
    • Halttunen, K. (2004). That Great Natural Curiosity: The Old Man of the Mountain as Lusus Naturae. Common Place. Vol. 4 PubMed Web Address
    • Halttunen, K. (2004). The Rust of Time, the Patina of Place: Recent Studies in New England Regionalism. New England Quarterly. pp. 122-35.
    • Halttunen, K. (2002). Self, Subject, and the ‘Barefoot Historian. Journal of American History .. pp. 20-24.
    • Halttunen, K. (2002). Mountain-Christenings: Landscape and Memory in Edward Hitchcock’s New England. New England Celebrates: Spectacle, Commemoration, and Festivity.. pp. 166-77.
    • Halttunen, K. (1999). Cultural History and the Challenge of Narrativity. Beyond the Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and Culture/University of California Press.. pp. 165-181.
    • Halttunen, K. (1998). Gothic Mystery and the Birth of the Asylum. Moral Problems in American Life: New Essays on Cultural History./ Cornell University Press.. pp. 40-57.
    • Halttunen, K. (1996). Divine Providence and Dr. Parkman’s Jawbone: The Cultural Construction of Murder as Mystery. Ideas from the National Humanities Center. Vol. 4, pp. 4-21.
    • Halttunen, K. (1995). Humanitarianism and the Pornography of Pain in Anglo-American Culture. American Historical Review. Vol. 100, pp. 303-334.
    • Halttunen, K. (1993). Early American Murder Narratives: The Birth of Horror. The Power of Culture: Critical Essays in American History /University of Chicago Press. pp. 67-101.
    • Halttunen, K. (1992). Domestic Differences: Competing Narratives of Womanhood in the Murder Trial of Lucretia Chapman. The Culture of Sentiment: Race, Gender, and Sentimentality in 19th-Century America / Oxford University Press.. pp. 39-57.
    • Halttunen, K. (1989). From Parlor to Living Room: Domestic Space and the Culture of Personality. Consuming Visions: Accumulation and Display of Goods in America(W.W.Norton). pp. 157-189.
    • Halttunen, K. (1988). ‘Through the Cracked and Fragmented Self’: William James and The Turn of the Screw. American Quarterly. pp. 472-490.
    • Halttunen, K. (1986). Gothic Imagination and Social Reform: The Haunted Houses of Lyman Beecher, Henry Ward Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. New Essays on Uncle Tom’s Cabin/Cambridge University Press.. pp. 107-134.
    • Halttunen, K. (1984). The Domestic Drama of Louisa May Alcott. Feminist Studies. Vol. 10, pp. 233-254.
    • Halttunen, K. (1984). The Devil’s Progress: From Angra Mainyu to Darth Vader. Arts and Sciences. pp. 2-7.
    • Halttunen, K. (1978). Cotton Mather and the Meaning of Suffering in the Magnalia Christi Americana. Journal of American Studies. pp. 311-329.


    • Halttunen, K. (2005). Where did the “Vanishing Indian” Go? Race, Geology, and the Making of Indian Rock. Los Angeles.
    • Halttunen, K. (2005). Where did the “Vanishing Indian” Go? Race, Geology and the Making of Indian Rock. Corvallis, OR.
    • Halttunen, K. (2005). Where did the “Vanishing Indian” Go? Race, Geology, and the Making of Indian Rock. Los Angeles, CA.
    • Elected Fellow, Society of American Historians, Columbia University, 2003
    • Elected Member, American Antiquarian Society, 1995
    • William Hewit Distinguished Professor in History, University of Northern Colorado, 2010-2011
    • Los Angeles Times Distinguished Fellow, 2006-2007
    • Roland Marchand Memorial Award for Excellence in Service to K12 Teachers, 2003
    • Outstanding Mentor Award, Consortium for Women and Research, UC Davis, 2001
    • Andrew Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence, 1999-2000
    • Honorable Mention, John Hope Franklin Prize, American Studies Association, 1999
    • A. Lindsay O’Connor Professor of American Institutions, Colgate University, Fall 1996
    • Peterson Research Fellowship, 1995/06-1995/08
    • President’s Research Fellowship in the Humanities, University of California, 1994-1995
    • Senior Fellowship, 1994-1995
    • Mellon Research Fellowship, 1994/06-1994/08
    • Distinguished Senior Fellowship, Humanities Institute, UC Davis, 1988-1989
    • Lefler Lecturer, Carleton College, 1988/04
    • Outstanding Teaching Award, Northwestern University, 1986
    • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship Recipient, 1983-1984
  • Administrative Appointments

    • Director of Graduate Studies, Department of History, 2007-2009


    • Shoah Foundation Institute, Faculty Advisory Board, 2007-2011
  • Committees

    • “Shoah Foundation Institute, Faculty Advisory Board”, 2007-2011

    Conferences Organized

    • Co-Convener, Ruins and Antiquities in 19th Century America”,
    • Convener, Omohundro-Huntington Library Workshop on Land and Landscape in Early America”,
    • Program Committee Member, American Historical Association Annual Meeting”,

    Editorships and Editorial Boards

    • Advisory Board, Cultural History: Journal of the International Society for Cultural History”, 07/2008 –
    • Managing Board Member, American Quarterly”, 2007-2008
    • Editorial Board, American Cultural History Series, University of Wisconsin Press”, 2002 – 2005
    • Editorial Board Member, Raritan”, 2002 – 2005
    • Advisory Editor, American Cultural Studies Series, University of North Carolina Press”, 1992 – 2005

    Professional Offices

    • Council Member, American Historical Association”, 2006-2010
    • Executive Committee, American Historical Association”, 2006-2010
    • Vice-President of the Teaching Division, American Historical Association”, 2006-2010
    • President, American Studies Association”, 2005-2006
    • President Elect, American Studies Association”, 2004-2005