Sarah Rivett

Professor of English and American Studies
Office Phone
35 McCosh Hall
Office Hours

On Leave, AY23-24


Sarah Rivett is Professor of English and American Studies. She is an interdisciplinary scholar, specializing in early American and transatlantic literature, religion, and indigenous history.  She is the author of The Science of the Soul in Colonial New England (2011), which was awarded the Brewer Prize of the American Society of Church History. The Science of the Soul explores intersections between the scientific revolution and the rise of Protestantism in Anglo America. Her second book, Unscripted America: Indigenous Languages and the Origins of  Literary Nation (2017), explores the impact of colonial language encounters between indigenous and European populations on Enlightenment language philosophy and early American literary history from the mid-seventeenth century through the 1820s. She is currently working on a study of the supernatural across a variety of eighteenth-century genres from court trials to sermons to gothic novels and ghost stories.

Rivett has also co-edited a volume of essays on Religious Transformations in the Early Modern Americas (2014). She is the Co-Organizer of the “Material Economies of Religion in the Americas” project administered by the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion at Yale University. Her articles have appeared in PMLA, American Literary History, Early American Literature, The William and Mary Quarterly, American Literature, and Early American Studies. Some of her course titles include: Religion and the Rise of the Novel (grad) Religion in the Early Modern Atlantic World (grad), American Enlightenment (grad), The Supernatural in American Literature, American Literature to 1865, Religion and Poetry, Walt Whitman’s America, and Morality in America.

Selected Publications


Unscripted America: Indigenous Languages and the Origins of  Literary Nation (Oxford University Press, 2017)

Religious Transformations in the Early Modern Americas, co-edited with Stephanie Kirk (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014)

The Science of the Soul in Colonial New England (Chapel Hill: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, The University of North Carolina Press, 2011)


“Local Linguistics and Indigenous Cosmologies of the Early Eighteenth Century Atlantic World,” in Translating nature: a cross-cultural history of early modern, edited by Ralph Bauer and Jaime Marroquin (forthcoming).

2017 “Introduction to Colonial Indigenous Language Encounters,” co-authored with Sean Harvey (forthcoming in Early American Studies, 15.3 (442 -473).

2015 “Unruly Empiricisms and Linguistic Sovereignty in Thomas Jefferson’s Indian Vocabulary Project,” American Literature, 87.4 (645 – 680).

“Conversion, Communication, and Translation in the Seventeenth-Century Protestant Atlantic,” in Cultures of Translation and the Translation of Culture in Early Modern Europe, edited by Karen Newman and Jane Tylus (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), 189 - 205.

“Learning to Write Algonquian Letters: the Indigenous Place of Language Philosophy in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World” William and Mary Quarterly 71.4 (2014) 549 - 588.

“The Algonquian Word and the Spirit of Divine Truth: John Eliot’s Indian Library and the Atlantic Quest for a Universal Language,” in Early American Mediascapes, edited by Matt Cohen and Jeffrey Glover (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2014), 376 - 408.

“Early American Religion in a Postsecular Age,” PMLA, 128.4 PMLA, 128.4 (989 - 996).

“The Spectral Indian Presence in Early American Literature,” American Literary History, 25.3 (2013) 625 – 637.

“Religious Exceptionalism and American Literary History: The Puritan Origins of the American Self in 2012,” Early American Literature 47.2 (2012) 391 – 410.  

 “Religious Transformations in the Early Modern Americas,” co-authored with Stephanie Kirk, Early American Literature 45.1 (2010) 61 – 91.

 “Community Structure, 1492 – 1676,” in Religion in American History, edited by John Corrigan and Amanda Porterfield (Oxford: Blackwell, 2010) 49 - 69.

“Our Salem, Our Selves,” Special Forum on the Salem Witchcraft Trials, William and Mary Quarterly 65.3 (2008) 495 – 503.

“Tokenography: Narration and the Science of Dying in Puritan Deathbed Testimonies” Early American Literature 42.3 (2007) 471 – 494.

“Empirical Desire: Conversion, Ethnography, and the New Science of the Praying Indian” Early American Studies 4.1 (2006) 16 – 45.

“ ‘Keepers of the Covenant’: Submissive Captives and Maternal Redeemers in Puritan New England,” in Feminist Interventions in Early American Studies, edited by Mary C. Carruth (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama, 2006).