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Katy Ryan

Professor; Eberly Family Professor of Outstanding Teaching

Professor Ryan's research focuses on the history and literature of imprisonment in the United States.

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Katy Ryan teaches several undergraduate courses, including the American literature survey, Poetry and Drama, Major Authors (Toni Morrison, Samuel Beckett), 20th-century American Literature, Modern Drama, Justice and Literature, Foundations in Literary Studies, and the Senior Thesis. She has developed experiential learning courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. She teaches graduate courses in performance, prison studies, and American literature.

In 2004, she founded the Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP), a nonprofit that mails free books to people imprisoned in six states, creates prison book clubs, and raises college tuition for incarcerated students. She is also the Founder of the WVU Higher Education in Prison Initiative. Her research focuses on the history and literature of imprisonment in the United States. 

Dr. Ryan is the recipient of the Sigma Tau Delta Outstanding Teaching Award; the Neil S. Bucklew Award for Social Justice; the WVU Foundation Outstanding Teaching Award; the Eberly College Outstanding Teaching Award; and the James and Arthur Gabriel Brothers Faculty Award for teaching and service.


  • American studies
  • Public humanities
  • Prison studies
  • Twentieth-century American literature

Selected Publications:

  • Co-editor, This Book is Free and Yours to Keep: Notes from the Appalachian Prison Book Project. Forthcoming from WVU Press.
  • Where the Letters Lead: The Appalachian Prison Book Project.” The Discipline at Modernism/Modernity 29 Dec. 2020
  • “Reading and Writing between the Devil and the Deep Blue.” Forthcoming in Teaching Literature and Writing in Prison. Eds. Patrick Alexander and Sheila Smith McCoy. Modern Language Association.
  • “A Prison Nation and Freedom Dreams: 1980s Literature of Incarceration.” American Literature in Transition: 1980-1990. Ed. Quentin Miller. Cambridge University Press, 2017. 129-146.
  • “'When Freedom Comes’: Maria Parker, the Women’s Department, and the West Virginia State Penitentiary.” West Virginia History 11.1 (Spring 2017): 1-27.

  • With Yvonne Hammond, “Work & Hope and the West Virginia State Penitentiary.” West Virginia History 11.1 (Spring 2017): 29-43.

  • “Prison, Time, Kairos in Langston Hughes’s Scottsboro, Limited.” Modern Drama 58.2 (June 2015): 171-193.
  • Editor, Demands of the Dead: Executions, Storytelling, and Activism in the United States (Univ. of Iowa Press, 2012).
  • “A View of The Brig: From the Cage to the Street.” Political and Protest Theatre after 9-11: Patriotic Dissent (Routledge, 2012).
  • “State Killing, the Stage of Innocence, and The Exonerated.” American Literature 83.1 (March 2011).
  • “Permeable Borders and American Prisons: Malcolm Braly’s On the Yard.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 50.3 (Fall 2008).
  • “Horizons of Grace: Marilynne Robinson and Simone Weil.” Philosophy and Literature 29.2 (Oct. 2005): 349-364.
  • “Falling in Public: Larsen’s Passing, McCarthy’s The Group, and Baldwin’s Another Country.” Studies in the Novel 36.1 (Spring 2004): 95-119.
  • “Assurance of God.” Short Story. Denver Quarterly (Winter 2001).
  • “Revolutionary Suicide in Toni Morrison’s Novels.” African American Review (Fall 2000).
  • “Documentary Films on U.S. Social Issues.” Humanities Collection 1.3 (1999).
  • "'No Less Human’: Making History in Suzan-Lori Parks’s The American Play.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 8.2 (Spring 1999).
  • “A Body’s Mind Experience in Tim Miller’s Workshop.” Theatre Topics 7.2 (Sept. 1997).