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Mark Metzler Sawin

DEPARTMENT: History Dept

POSITION: Department Chair and Professor

DEPARTMENT: Honors Program

POSITION: Director

LOCATION: Main Campus, Harrisonburg | RLN 316

PHONE: (540) 432-4468

EMAIL: mark.sawin@emu.edu

Mark Metzler Sawin grew up in Hesston, a small, Mennonite town in rural Kansas. He attended Goshen College (Indiana) and then the University of Texas at Austin where he earned his MA and PhD in American Studies. Before coming to Eastern Mennonite University in 2001, Mark apprenticed as a chef, wrote for a culinary magazine, and managed a coffee shop, experiences that continue to color his teaching which is marked by an interdisciplinary hodgepodge of cultural studies, popular culture, literature and history. At EMU he currently serves as professor of U.S. History and as the director of the Honors program. In the larger academic world, Mark serves as a member of the Regional Chapters Committee of the American Studies Association which he chaired from 2011-13, and as a board member for the Eastern American Studies Association. He has also served as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Zagreb, Croatia (2008-09) and as the President of the Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association (2006-08). His scholarship focuses largely on the religious, literary, and popular culture of antebellum America (1850s); his book Raising Kane addresses Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane who authored two “best-selling” books about his travels while masterfully manipulating the popular media to enhance his celebrity status. Mark is currently launching a new project, editing a collection of stories by the notorious antebellum pop-fiction author and political rabble-rouser, Ned Buntline.
Mark is married to Erika Metzler Sawin, a nursing professor at James Madison University, and has two children, Cora and Isaac.


BA, Goshen College
MA, University of Texas at Austin
PHD, University of Texas at Austin


Book Editor & Introduction The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main (1847) by Ned Buntline. Harrisonburg, VA: Emu Editions, (forthcoming 2017).

Article “Making Contact!: William Carlos Williams’ American Literary Aesthetic.” Umjetnost Riječi (The Art of Words: A Croatian/English Journal of Literary, Theatre and Film Studies) 58, nos. 3-4 (July-December 2014): 331-354.

Mennonites in Encyclopedia of American Studies (Online Edition), Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

Essay “Pickups, The History of a Love Story: A Cultural Study of Pickup Trucks in America” in Howard Zehr, Pickups: A Love Story, Intercourse, PA; GoodBooks, 2013.

Book Raising Kane: Dr. Kane and the Culture of Fame in Antebellum America, Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2008.

Review Article Exploring Other Worlds: Margaret Fox, Elisha Kent Kane, and the Antebellum Culture of Curiosity, by David Chapin; The Reluctant Spiritualist: The Life of Maggie Fox by Nancy Rubin Stuart; and Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism, by Barbara Weisberg. Journal of the Early Republic, (Winter, 2005): 668-74.

Cover Article “U.S. History through American Studies.” American Studies Newsletter (Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association) 17, no. 1 (Fall 2005): 1.

Book Review Desert Patriarchy: Mormon and Mennonite Communities in the Chihuahua Valley by Janet Bennion. BYU Studies 4, no.2 (Fall 2005): 177-180.

Book Review The Earth is the Lord’s: A Narrative History of the Lancaster Conference by John Landis Ruth. Mennonite Quarterly Review, October, 2002 76:4.

Article “Heroic Ambition: The Early Life of Dr. Elisha Kent Kane.” American Philosophical Society Library Bulletin, Fall, 2001, n.s. 1:2. Online

Article “Moving Stubbornly Toward the Kingdom of God: Mennonite Identity in the Twenty-First Century.” Mennonite Quarterly Review, January, 2001 75:1 89-98.

Short Story “Jed Said No.” What Mennonites Are Thinking, 1999. Good Books, 1999.

Article “A Sentinel for the Saints: Thomas Leiper Kane and the Mormon Migration.” Nauvoo Journal, Spring, 1998, 10:1 17-27.

Thesis Article “Raising Kane: The Making of a Hero, the Marketing of a Celebrity.” Elisha Kent Kane Historical Society, 1997. Online

Article “Mennonites & Amish.” Encyclopedia of Civil Rights in America. Salem Press, 1997.

Scholarly Presentations and Abstracts

  • Panelist “Where American Studies is at Home/not Home: Working in Different Disciplinary and Professional Contexts.” American Studies Association. Denver, CO (Nov. 2016)
  • Moderator “In the Heart of the Shenandoah Valley: Visions of Harrisonburg, 1867-2017.” Virginia Forum. Jamestown, VA (March 2016)
  • Panelist “Regional Chapters Committee: A Discussion with ASA Regional Student Award Winners.” American Studies Association. Toronto Canada (Oct. 2015)
  • Presentation “What Makes America American?, or, Rock’n‘Roll & Pickup Trucks: An American Studies Look at U.S. Culture.” U.S. Consulate General, Chennai American Library, India (July 2015, invited)
  • Presentation “There’s Somethin’ ‘bout a Truck: America’s Love Affair with the Pickup Truck.” Eastern American Studies Association, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA (March 2013)
  • Panelist “ASA Students’ Committee: Roundtable on the Results from the ASA Students Survey.” American Studies Association, San Juan, Puerto Rico (Nov. 2012)
  • Presentation “Sensation, Science & Scandal: The Popular Press in Antebellum America.” Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, Dayton, VA (May 2012, invited)
  • Moderator “Cultural Change through Popular Media.” Eastern American Studies Association, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ (March 2012)
  • Presentation “Damsels, Demons, & the Sensationalized South: Ned Buntline’s Civil War.” American Studies Association, Baltimore (Oct. 2011)
  • “The Prolific Profligate: Ned Buntline & His Literary World.” Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association, Pennsylvania State Capitol, Harrisburg PA (April 2011)
  • “Scoundrels! Secession! Sensation!: Ned Buntline, the Civil War, and the Demon of Fire.” Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association, La Salle University, Philadelphia (April 2010).
  • “Hope in Hard Times: Obama, FDR & the Construction of Hope in American Politics.” Klub Studenta Anglistike, Zagreb, Croatia (March, 2009).
  • “Rock n Roll in Black & White: Cultural Creation in the US Since the 1950s.” American Corner, Zagreb, Croatia (Nov, 2008 & March 2009); School of Economics, Vukovar, Croatia (Jan, 2009); American Corner, Zadar, Croatia (Feb, 2009); Turkish-American University, Istanbul, Turkey (Feb, 2009); University of Sarajevo, Bosnia (Feb, 2009); University Dzemal Bijedic, Mostar, Herzegovina (Feb, 2009).
  • with Dr. Iva Polak “Grave New World: The Early History of North America & Australia.” University of Sarajevo, Bosnia (Feb, 2009); University Dzemal Bijedic, Mostar, Herzegovina (Feb. 2009).
  • “Playing with the Spirits: Séances in Antebellum America.” Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association, Rochester, NY (April 2008)
  • Presidential Address “The American Studies Scholar: An Emersonian Perspective.” Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association, Baltimore, MD (March, 2007)
  • “When Caliban Impressed Prospero: Rethinking 19th-Century Exploration & Race Narratives.” Organization of American Historians, Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC (April, 2006)
  • “Teaching the Violent Edge of Non-Violent Reform.” Faith in Action Conference, Samford University, Birmingham, AL (Jan. 2006)
  • “Traveling Together: The Intertwined Ambitions of Elisha & Thomas Kane.” Kane Masonic Lodge / Elisha Kent Kane Historical Society, New York, NY (Jan. 2006, invited)