MARC SHELL, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow, is the Irving Babbitt Professor of Comparative Literature and Professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard University. He is also Professor in the university's undergraduate Literature Concentration and the graduate program in History of American Civilization.

His books have appeared in translation in some dozen languages. His essays have been published by tens of scholarly journals and magazines.

Professor Shell's theoretical and thematic interests include seven interconnected research areas:

(1) money & language,

(2) nationhood, politics & language difference,

(3) kinship,

(4) non-English literatures of America,

(5) Jewish languages & literatures of the world,

(6) medical & disability studies, and

(7) Canadian studies.

Marc Shell was born in Québec in 1947. As an undergraduate, he studied English Language at McGill University (Montréal) and History at Trinity College (Cambridge). He received a BA in English Language & Literature and also in Social Thought & Institutions from Stanford University (1968).  He has an MA (1972) and PhD (1975) in Comparative Literature from Yale University. Before coming to Harvard University, Professor Shell taught in the Department of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo (1974-1986) and headed the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst (1986-1991). His administrative duties at Harvard have included chairing the Literature Concentration and the Department of Comparative Literature. Profressor Shell co-founded Harvard's summer schools in Olympia (Greece) and Cascais (Portugal). More recently, he has taught during summers at Harvard's Summer School in Venice (Italy). During the 2007-09 academic year terms, when classes at Harvard were not in session, Professor Shell was scholar-in-residence, for one week each, at three institutions: Nanjing Normal University (Nanjing, China), the City University of New York (Brooklyn, NY), and the United Arab Emirates University (Al Ain, United Arab Emirates). Professor Shell is Faculty Associate at Harvard's Center for the Environment.

Since 1970, Marc Shell has been married to the political philosopher Susan Meld Shell, who chairs the Department of Political Science at Boston College. Their children are Hanna Rose Shell, a professor of Science, Technology, and Society at MIT, and Jacob Adam Shell, who is completing his PhD in Geography at The Maxwell School. Professors Shell live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and on Grand Manan island, Canada.

Contact information.

research areas
1. money & language

Marc Shell’s publications about economics and aesthetics and about money and language include the following books:  Art & Money (Chicago UP 1994); Money, Language, and Thought: Literary and Philosophical Economies from the Medieval to the Modern Era (California UP 1982); and The Economy of Literature (Johns Hopkins UP 1978).

The Painting in the Trash Bin: Otis Kaye and the Perplexities of Art is forthcoming (Chicago UP January 2009).  Wampum and the Origin of North American Money is now also in press (Illinois UP forthcoming 2009).

Shell was co-curator and co-editor, with Jürgen Harten, of Das fünfte Element—Geld oder Kunst (Düsseldorf 2000), with its interpretative dictionary-style catalog. He was also co-editor, with Jean-Marie Thiveaud, of Collection Économie de la littérature (Paris); the collection's first volume presents the poet Paul Claudel's writings from the time that he was French Ambassador to the United StatesLa Crise: Correspondence diplomatique Amérique, 1927-1932, pref. Erik Izraëlewicz (Paris: Métailié-Transition 1993).

2. nationhood, politics & language difference    

Published work in the area of nationhood and language difference includes Children of the Earth: Literature, Politics, and Nationhood (Oxford UP 1994) as well as several studies of bilingualism and language rights in Québec, New Brunswick, and elsewhere in the world. Relevant here are Professor Shell's keynote lectures at such venues as "Welsh Writing in English in Comparative Contexts" (Wales UK 2009).

Professor Shell's book Language Wars is now almost complete. His book Grand Manan; or, A Short History of North America is in press (McGill-Queens UP forthcoming 2009).

Together with the political philosopher Professor Susan Meld Shell, he is completing a relevant book on Alexis de Tocqueville and the prison systems of the United States. 

3. kinship    

Professor Shell’s writings about kinship and the European Renaissance include Elizabeth's Glass; with "The Glass of the Sinful Soul" (1544) by Elizabeth I; and "Epistle Dedicatory" & "Conclusion" (1548) by John Bale (Nebraska UP 1994); and The End of Kinship: "Measure for Measure," Incest, and the Ideal of Universal Siblinghood (Stanford UP 1988). 

Professor Shell has authored many essays about the social institution of family pet-hood. He sometimes co-teaches in this area with members of the faculty of the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine.

4. non-English literatures of the United States    

Marc Shell is editor of American Babel: American Literatures from Abnaki to Zuni (Harvard UP 2002).  He co-directs the Longfellow Institute for the Study of the Non-English Languages and Literatures of the United States (Cambridge).

He co-edits The Longfellow Series, which publishes books at four presses. He is also co-editor, with Werner Sollors, of the Multilingual Anthology of the United States (New York UP 2001), which has a facing-page format and eighteen languages. He is editor of Mark Twain's Multilingual "Jumping Frog" (Johns Hopkins UP forthcoming)

His earliest publication in this area was French-Canadian/American Literary Relations (French Canada Studies Institute, McGill University 1967).

  5. Jewish languages & literatures of the world    

Professor Shell directs The Lily Center for Jewish Languages and Literature (Cambridge). His work in this general area includes an ongoing annual undergraduate and graduate Harvard Seminar.  The main languages considered in the 2008 iteration of the Seminar are Judeo-Malayalam, Judeo-Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Chinese, Judeo-Greek, Judeo-Iranian, Judeo-Italian, Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Portuguese, Judeo-Spanish, and Yiddish.  In the works is a multilingual anthology of Jewish literatures in facing-page format. Professor Shell chairs a three-day panel on this subject at the annual meeting, Global Languages, Local Cultures (2009), of the American Comparative Literature Association (Cambridge).

6. medical & disability studies    

Professor Shell is the author of two books in this area. Both books include literary study and film work: Stutter (Harvard UP 2005) and Polio and Its Aftermath: The Paralysis of Culture (Harvard UP 2006). The manuscript of a third book, Talking the Walk & Walking the Talk, is now complete.

Professor Shell teaches in the area of disability studies, often with faculty members from other schools at Harvard.  “Paralysis and Aesthetics” was taught with faculty from the Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston.  “Language Disorders and the Literary Tradition” was taught with Professor Evangeline Stefanakis of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Laboratory in Child Development at Tufts University.

Professor Shell was Chair of Harvard’s Interfaculty Initiative for Disabilities Studies (2000-03).  For seven years, he served on the General Committee of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (Boston).   His work includes raising funds, consulting with architecture firms about a new hydrotherapeutic faculty with six pools, and participation, with Dr. Julie Silver of the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, at the International Polio Center of Excellence (Framingham).

  7. Canadian studies    

Professor Shell has offered lectures at Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs: one, for example, about Canadian-American cultural difference at the Canada Seminar; another about Canadian-European political discourse at the Cultural Politics Seminar. He has also delivered a series of three lectures at Trent University (Peterborough, Ontario). His books in this area include Grand Manan: A Large History of a Small Island, and The Last Class: Montreal 1960-1964 (both forthcoming).

Professor Shell's other work in Canada includes co-directing, with Professor Susan Shell, The Seven Days Work Educational Foundation (Grand Manan, Canada), which sponsors conferences and educational outreach programs in the greater Gulf of Maine region both in Canada and the United States.

  Click here for more information about Marc Shell's Books and Essays as well as for text- and picture-downloads.    

Harvard University, Barker Humanities Center 265, 12 Quincy Street, Cambridge MA 02138 USA . Fax: 617/496-8737. Email: Marc Shell.