Michele Hardesty

Dean of Humanities and Arts and Associate Professor of U.S. Literatures and Cultural Studies
Hampshire College Professor Michele Hardesty
Contact Michele

Mail Code CSI
Michele Hardesty
Franklin Patterson Hall G4
413.559.5490

Michele Hardesty received her M.A. and Ph.D. in English and comparative literature from Columbia University, and her B.A in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Professor Hardesty’s courses explore the multiple literary cultures of the United States, in national and transnational frameworks. She teaches that any reckoning with the literary history of the United States must include not only the canonized genres of novel, short story, and poetry, but also oral forms such as storytelling and slam poetry, and “popular” forms such as science fiction and comics. Studying these different forms requires students to pay attention to their distinct contexts of emergence, modes of circulation, and measures of value. Understanding context also means understanding power, and Hardesty’s courses explore how texts and canons have both shaped and contested dominant formations of power along the lines of nation, gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality.

Hardesty’s research focuses on the crosscurrents of social movements and literary cultures during the Cold War era, with a focus on the cultural politics of international solidarity. She is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Writers Take Sides: Internationalism and U.S. Literatures, 1959-86. Her essay “Looking for the Good Fight: William T. Vollmann Comes of Age in Afghanistan” was published in the journal boundary 2 in 2009, and her essay “If All the Writers of the World Get Together: Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and a Writers’ International in Sandinista Nicaragua” appears in the edited volume Transnational Beat Generation (Palgrave, 2012), edited by Nancy Grace and Jenny Skerl. In addition, Hardesty’s work has appeared in Critical Quarterly and The Monthly Review, and in the historical comics encyclopedia Comics Through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas, edited by M. Keith Booker.

Hardesty is also working with Hampshire digital pedagogy librarian Alana Kumbier and Mount Holyoke archivist Leslie Fields on a project called “Zine Scenes,” supported by a Mellon-funded Five Colleges Digital Humanities project development grant. The goal of this project is to create an ongoing archival research initiative in which students, faculty, and library staff will examine queer and feminist zines from the 1990s within the countercultural contexts in which they were produced and circulated. This initiative will develop digital tools (games, mapping, timelines) to publish research findings on a dedicated website hosted by Five Colleges, Inc. A major part of this project is a Five College archival research seminar called “Beyond the Riot: Feminist and Queer Zine Histories,” hosted by Hampshire College.

Professor Hardesty has been a member of the Hampshire in Havana program since 2012, and was Faculty-in-Residence in Havana for the spring 2015 semester. Find more information on the program.

Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • In Literature, Culture, & Empire: an introduction to critical looking, reading, and writing, students will learn to view, read, and write about texts and images that reflect and reinforce imperialism and settler colonialism in the U.S. and beyond, as well as images and texts whose creators are doing work to unsettle Empire, chart new maps, and establish new routes/roots. We will read and be in dialogue with four creators who teach, are in residence, or will be visiting Hampshire: Visiting professor of Native American and Indigenous Studies Robert Caldwell, Jr.; Five College Women's Studies Research Associate Shailja Patel; and Associate Professor of Fiction Writing Uzma Aslam Khan; and Hampshire alum Daniel Jose Older. Each unit of the course will feature public events with each creator, as well as class visits. Students will write a series of short essays and participate in a collaborative mapping project, and at the end of the semester, they will build a portfolio of revised work. This course is best suited for students who want to gain foundational skills for studying and writing about literature and culture, who are curious about how culture and power impact one another, and who want to build intellectual community and collaborative knowledge in the classroom and beyond. Literature, Culture, & Empire is affiliated with the In/Justice Learning Collaborative, and will be deeply engaged with its guiding questions for 2021-22, "How can we disrupt and dismantle white supremacy? What can we do to build ongoing movements for racial and economic justice?" Students in this course will be expected to attend In/Justice LC events and gatherings this semester, some of which will relate directly to our course. (keywords: literature, culture, visual, empire, writing)

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  • This interdisciplinary course critically engages a range of frameworks (geopolitical, historical, sociological, literary, cultural) to study the complex and contested reality of Cuba. The course will begin by critiquing and decentering the stereotypical images of Cuba that circulate in U.S. popular and official culture. The first part of the course will focus on revolutions that have defined the nation in the context of colonialism and neocolonialism: the impact of the Haitian Revolution on colonial Cuba; the forging of cubanidad in the late-19th century revolutions for independence from Spain; and the victory of the 1959 Cuban Revolution that defied U.S. neocolonial power. From there, we will examine how intersecting constructions of race, gender, and sexuality have defined the Cuban after the 1959 revolution, during the Special Period, and more recently. We will also explore how Cuba should be understood in relation to the U.S. government, to the international Left, and to its diaspora. This course is open to all, though it is best suited to students beyond their first semester of study. The class will be conducted in English, with many readings available in Spanish and English. Additionally, for students wishing to apply for the Hampshire in Havana spring semester program, this course will offer critical foundational knowledge and application support. (Concurrent enrollment in a Spanish language class is strongly recommended for non-fluent speakers considering the Hampshire in Havana program.) (keywords: Latin American studies, history, cultural studies, literature, Cuba Exchange)