Lisa Szefel, Ph.D


Associate Professor
Department of History


Contact information
Phone: (503) 352-2034

Lisa Szefel - Assistant Professor of History - Pacific University




Ph.D. History University of Rochester
M.A. History University of Virginia
B.A. History

Mount Holyoke College,
Highest Honors


Classes Offered

Lecture Courses:
U.S. History since 1865
American Popular Culture
Race in Modern America
Human Rights and Social Movements

First Year Seminar Program:

Success: History and How To

Animals and Ethics

Minds, Morals, and Markets

Get Rich! Wealth in American History
The 1990s in Global Context
The History of Conservatism
The Reagan Era
The Civil Rights Movement

The Great Depression

Research Methods in History

Mentoring in the Humanities

Academic Positions


Assistant Professor of History, Pacific University
Lecturer, History and Literature Department, Harvard University

Instructor, Writing across the Disciplines, University of Rochester


Publications: Books


The Gospel of Beauty in the Progressive Era: Reforming American Verse and Values (Palgrave Macmillan 2011)

In Progress:

Peter Viereck & Modern American Conservatism

Publications: Articles


Review of Daniel T. Rodgers, Age of Fracture, History News Network

           Feb 2011

“Welcome Back, 1970s,” History News Network

          Dec 2008


“Beauty and William Braithwaite," Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora (Selected as “Notable Essay of 2006” Best American Essays 2007. Ed. David Foster Wallace)

    Spring 2006



"Encouraging Verse: William S. Braithwaite and the Poetics of Race," New England Quarterly (Reprinted in Harlem Renaissance, Vol. 1: A Gale Critical Companion.  

Edited by J. Wltalec)

         Mar 2001

In front of the Berlin Reichstag the summer it was wrapped by the artist "Christo"

With Cleve Jones, LGBT activist, founder of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and American Hero


Fellowships and Prizes


Junior Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship



Wye Faculty Seminar, The Aspen Institute
Durot Fellowship, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin
Junior Faculty Development Award, Pacific University
NEH Summer Institute/W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University
American Antiquarian Society
American Academy of Arts & Sciences: Visiting Scholar

Dexter Perkins Prize in Intellectual and Cultural History, University of Rochester

Curtis Peck Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching, University of Rochester


Seven Society Graduate Fellowship for Superb Teaching, University of Virginia  
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Research Fellowship (SDP), Berlin, Germany
German Historical Institute

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Fellowship, Germany





"The 'Glare of Vivid Words': Taste, Tears, and Trotsky," U.S. Intellectual History Conference Cuny Graduate Center


November 2012

"Tall Ideas Dancing: Compassion, Capitalism, and the Aesthetics of

Conservatism," Organization of American Historians Conference


          April 2012

"Intolerance of the Intellectuals: Peter Viereck’s Shame and Glory,"

Conference on Public Intellectuals, Harvard University


          April 2012

Panel Member, Roundtable: Daniel Rodgers, Age of Fracture,

            U.S. Intellectual History Conference, Center for the Humanities,

            CUNY Graduate Center


November 2011

"The Postwar Literary Turn in American Politics," U.S. Intellectual History

             Conference, CUNY Graduate Center


November 2011

"Reconstructing Reason: Values, Virtues, and the Moral Imagination in 

Postwar America,"

             The Enlightenment between Europe and the United States:                                  Twentieth-Century Tensions, Center for Advanced Studies,                        Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany


May 2011

"Peter Viereck's Mid-Century 'New Conservatism': Uncautiously, Daring,  Free-Thinking Lovers of Beauty,"

              US Intellectual History Conference, Center for the Humanities,                          City University of New York


October 2010

"Reading Ezra Pound in the Cold War: The Bollingen Prize Controversy of 1949," Ezra Pound International Conference, Rome, Italy


July 2009

"The Conservative Road Not Taken: The Politics and Poetry of Peter Viereck," Columbia University


March 2009

"Gender and the Presidential Election,"

              Center for Gender Equity, Pacific University, Forest Grove, OR


October 2008

Moderator, Humanities Institute Conference,"The Other Side of Reason:     The History of Madness Today," SUNY Buffalo


October 2008

"Theodore Roosevelt and the Modern Bard,"

       Popular Culture/American Culture Annual Conference,

       San Francisco, CA


March 2008

"Cultural Conservative: Peter Viereck and European History"

              Mount Holyoke College, S. Hadley, MA


November 2006

"New Critics, New York Intellectuals, and the Cultural Cold War,"

              History and Literature Department Seminar, Harvard University


December 2006

"Poetry in the Progressive Era,"

              American Literary History Conference, Boston, MA


March 2005

"The Politics of Culture, 1900-1950,"

              American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Cambridge, MA


April 2005


My research interests center on the role of culture in the development of American values, movements for social change, and political life. Whether popular (soap operas), difficult (modernist poetry), or controversial (conservative intellectuals), my goal is to understand the underpinnings and impact of culture in modern U.S. history.

My first book, "The Gospel of Beauty" in the Progressive Era: Reforming American Verse and Values, charts the work of poets, critics, and editors who promoted reform by popularizing poetry. They worked behind the scenes to create an institutional infrastructure to support authors who addressed the problems inherent in contemporary life. I bring to center stage the story of the editors, anthologists, critics, and writers who believed that poetry reading facilitated self-knowledge and social justice. Situated between the genteel tradition and the avant garde, they linked creativity to moral obligation and, in doing so, refashioned Americans' understanding of both modernism and modern life.

Currently I am working on a biography of Peter Viereck, a long-time, very inspiring History professor that I studied with as an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College. A Pulitzer-prize winning poet, Viereck coined the term "new conservatism" and provided a historical framework and intellectual genealogy for the nascent conservative movement.



Critical Thinking: In my classes, while we spend a great deal of time exploring the main individuals, events, and ideas that animated moments in the past, I also want students to learn that history is not an inert set of facts and figures; it consists of dynamic moments and causal relationships that need to be interpreted. Otherwise, in an age of Wikipedia, why study history? In my lecture classes, you will read textbooks (although I know some students may view such books as the intellectual equivalent of Castor Oil, they provide a solid foundation and reference point), primary documents, including letters, speeches, diaries, as well as novels and films (the Chocolate Oblivion Cake of assigned texts).

Strategic Reading: I am interested in teaching students how to be more active readers. Instead of perusing a text solely for content, you will learn how to be more strategic by looking for an author's argument, use of evidence, and contribution. Like a Sherlock Holmes mystery or an episode of CSI, close analysis can uncloak key information that leads to important discoveries, such as an author's values and assumptions. When you read, have a pen in hand, ready to engage in a dialogue with the text—the marginalia of brilliant individuals, like Coleridge, have been published in multi-volume series—because ascertaining what is really going on in a law, pamphlet, or speech, is fundamental for responsible participation in a democracy.

Writing: Susan Sontag once said that "Writing is a form of self-mastery" and a wise professor once told me: "When you write it, you own it." The ability to write in a clear, compelling manner is a hallmark of a college education. The process of composition clarifies your thinking and solidifies your learning. Whatever career you choose, solid writing skills will make you stand out. 

Meaning, Value, and Weaving the Pieces Together: These skills can transfer to your everyday lives and career pursuits. Whether you are reading newspapers, Facebook posts, or Twitter, you will know to probe evidence and to seek more credible information before drawing a conclusion. You will also have a broader historical background with which to explain contemporary debates and you will know how to take a large amount of information and distill it into an organized, coherent narrative.


Largo di Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, Rome, Italy

With Mary de Rachewiltz, Daughter of Ezra Pound, Rome, Italy 2009