Julia McCord Chavez, Ph.D., J.D.

Photo of Julia McCord Chavez

Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

Professor, English

“My own experience of life, my biography, my feelings, my self as a person, affect my reading. The writer puts out half of the book, but then I read the book in my own unique manner. This is why reading is so interesting; we as readers don’t have passive roles, but very active ones. We must integrate into the text our own experiences of life and our own feelings. While reading a book, we are constantly applying our own knowledge.” (Isabel Allende, from “Reading the History of the World”)

Areas of Expertise

  • British and Anglophone literature
  • Victorian print culture
  • Law and literature
  • Women’s literature and gender studies
  • Popular culture
  • Composition studies


Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
J.D., Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington
B.A., DePauw University


Chavez's wide-ranging interests have grown out of her diverse education and training. A native Midwesterner, she received her B.A. from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, with a major in English and minors in art history and anthropology. A deep commitment to social justice next led her to earn a J.D. from Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington. After working in the legal publishing field for several years, Chavez returned to her original passion — English literature — at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Literary Studies with a major concentration in nineteenth-century British literature and a minor concentration in art history and material culture. Her doctoral work examined Victorian fiction that was serialized (and thus released in installments over time) and the relationship between partial publication and reading practices that promote critical consciousness, especially for female readers.

Interdisciplinarity is a hallmark of Chavez's classroom. Her teaching of composition and literature seeks to bring texts to life for students through historical, cultural, and aesthetic contexts. Social justice remains a focus for Chavez, as well, whether she is teaching a first-year college writing course on globalization, an upper-division course on the Romantics or Victorians, a dedicated author course on Charles Dickens, or a survey of women writers, from Mary Wollstonecraft to Margaret Atwood.

During her time at Saint Martin's University, Chavez has also served as the faculty advisor to the Benedictine Scholars program and as Director of the Center for Scholarship and Teaching. She currently serves as Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

When Chavez is not teaching or writing, she enjoys hiking, gardening, travelling, and volunteering. She is on the leadership team for Our Common Home Farms, a community agriculture project that grows nutritious food for donation using sustainable and environmentally friendly techniques.

Select publications

Chavez likes to remain active and connected in the scholarly community, and continues to focus her research within the mid-Victorian period. Currently, she is completing a Literary Companion to the Major Works of Charles Dickens (forthcoming from McFarland). Other publications include:

  • “‘But Women Feel Just as Men Do’: Gender Rights in Nineteenth-Century World Literature.” Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Literature. Edited by Ken Seigneurie. Vol. 4. Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming January 2020.
  • “Teaching Dickens by the Numbers: A Case Study of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” Co-written with Robert Hauhart.  In Victorian Literature in the 21stCentury: A Guide to Pedagogy. Edited by Jen Cadwallader and Larry Mazzeno. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.
  • “Serialization and Victorian Literature,” co-written with Susan David Bernstein. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. Oxford UP, Fall 2017. http://literature.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190201098.001.0001/acrefore9780190201098-e-254
  • “Julia Kavanagh, English Women of Letters, and Public Opinion.” Nineteenth Century Prose 43.1/2 (Spring/Fall 2016): 171-192.
  • “Gaskell’s Other Wives and Daughters: Reimagining the Gothic and Anticipating the Sensational in ‘Lois the Witch’ and ‘The Grey Woman’.” Gaskell Journal 29 (2015): 59-78.  
  • “Law and Gender in Nineteenth-Century England.”  Guest editor and co-author of “Introduction” (with Katherine Gilbert).  Special Issue of Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies 8.2 (Summer 2012).  
  • "The Return of the Native as Transatlantic Sensation; or Hardy Sensationalized." In Transatlantic Sensations, edited by John Barton and Jennifer Phegley. Ashgate, 2012. 239-56.
  • "Charles Dickens and Authentic Happiness: Theorizing the Good Life in a Materialistic World," Victorians Institute Journal-Digital Annex (January 2012).
  • "The Gothic Heart of Victorian Serial Fiction," SEL: Studies in English Literature 50.4 (Autumn 2010): 791-810.