Courses Taught

GAMST 200 – Introduction to American Studies


B.A. – Pierre Laclede Honors College, University of Missouri-St. Louis

M.A./Ph.D. – Washington University in St. Louis 


Douglas R. Harrison is Assistant Director of the Center for Faculty Innovation and Associate Professor of English in the English Department at James Madison University. In the CFI, Douglas focuses on faculty career and leadership development, building on his experience in university governance and higher education leadership. Douglas teaches courses in American literature and culture, including the Introduction to American Studies. In the classroom, Douglas’s approach to teaching emphasizes literary and cultural studies as an act of responsible citizenship. To understand and decode works of the human experience and imagination, student and teacher alike must engage in both active thinking (what does this mean?) and thoughtful action (here’s why it matters). Thus Douglas’s courses create opportunities for students to discover that they can, as novelist Wallace Stegner put it, “leave a mark on the world … to contribute, in words.”

Douglas’s work at the CFI grows out of his extensive experience in higher education leadership and faculty development. Most recently, before joining JMU, Douglas served as the Faculty Senate President and a member of the University Board of Trustees at Florida Gulf Coast University, and as a member of the Advisory Council of Faculty Senates for the State University System of Florida. He is also a faculty development consultant with Peter Seldin and J. Elizabeth Miller at colleges and universities around the country, mentoring faculty in holistic career development and training faculty and administrators in establishing a culture and framework for faculty peer mentoring. 

Research Interests

American religious culture studies

Douglas’s research focuses on the cultural function of religious music in American life. He has presented and published widely on the topic, including the first culture studies monograph about white gospel music from the American South. He is also a regular contributor to the online magazine Religion Dispatches, where he writes about gospel music and American culture. For the past decade, he has maintained a blog about southern gospel music that has become a convergence point in the southern gospel music industry for fans and professionals alike. Douglas’s current book project, tentatively titled The Gospel Sensibility: Faith, Fallibility, and Feeling in American Sacred Song, draws on data from the first large-scale online ethnographic survey of people involved in southern gospel music. This project has most recently been recognized with the Kluge Research Fellowship in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Library of Congress.

Technology and Higher Education

In addition to his primary research, Douglas also works with and writes about issues of technology and higher education. He was the founding Director of the Hurst Digital Archive at Washington University in St. Louis, and his work on blogging and the professoriate has been recognized with the National Education Association’s award for Excellence in the Academy. In the classroom, he uses new media technology to integrate music into the study of literature and culture, and he is currently developing a grant proposal to use e-readers in a literature course to explore the pedagogical implications of digital texts in literary and culture studies. 

Select Publications

Then Sings My Soul: The Culture of Southern Gospel Music. University of Illinois Press (Music and American Life series) 2012.

“Southern Gospel Sissies: Gay Men, Evangelical Music, and the Plays of Del Shores.” In The Best of the Journal of Men, Masculinity, and Spirituality. Ed. Joseph Gelfer. Gorgias Press (2010), 207-231. Originally published in JMMS 3.2 (June 2009), 123-141.

“No Body There: Notes on the Queer Migration to Cyberspace.” Journal of Popular Culture.  43.2 (April 2010), 286-308.  

“Scholarly Voice and Professional Identity in the Internet Age.” Thought & Action. 24 (Fall 2008), 23-34. Winner of the National Education Association’s Excellence in the Academy Award.

“Why Southern Gospel Music Matters.” Religion and American Culture. 18.1 (Winter 2008), 26-47.

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