Mark Metzler Sawin

Mark Metzler Sawin

Office Phone: (540) 432-4468


Main Campus, Harrisonburg

Office Location: RLN 316

Department Chair

History Dept


Honors Program


History Dept

Mark Metzler Sawin grew up in Hesston, a small, Mennonite town in rural Kansas. He attended Goshen College (Indiana) and then the University of Texas at Austin where he earned his MA and PhD in American Studies. Before coming to Eastern Mennonite University in 2001, Mark apprenticed as a chef, wrote for a culinary magazine, and managed a coffee shop, experiences that continue to color his teaching which is marked by an interdisciplinary hodgepodge of cultural studies, popular culture, literature and history. At EMU he currently serves as professor of U.S. History and as the director of the Honors program. In the larger academic world, Mark serves as a member of the Regional Chapters Committee of the American Studies Association which he chaired from 2011-13, and as a board member for the Eastern American Studies Association. He has also served as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Zagreb, Croatia (2008-09) and as the President of the Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association (2006-08). His scholarship focuses largely on the religious, literary, and popular culture of antebellum America (1850s); his book Raising Kane addresses Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane who authored two “best-selling” books about his travels while masterfully manipulating the popular media to enhance his celebrity status. Mark is currently launching a new project, editing a collection of stories by the notorious antebellum pop-fiction author and political rabble-rouser, Ned Buntline.
Mark is married to Erika Metzler Sawin, a nursing professor at James Madison University, and has two children, Cora and Isaac.


Ph.D., American Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 2001
MA, American Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 1997
BA, English & Political Science, Goshen College, 1993


  • Book Editor & Introduction The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main (1847) by Ned Buntline. Harrisonburg, VA: Emu Editions, (forthcoming 2017).
  • Article “Making Contact!: William Carlos Williams’ American Literary Aesthetic.” Umjetnost Riječi (The Art of Words: A Croatian/English Journal of Literary, Theatre and Film Studies) 58, nos. 3-4 (July-December 2014): 331-354.
  • Mennonites in Encyclopedia of American Studies (Online Edition), Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.
  • Essay “Pickups, The History of a Love Story: A Cultural Study of Pickup Trucks in America” in Howard Zehr, Pickups: A Love Story, Intercourse, PA; GoodBooks, 2013.
  • Book Raising Kane: Dr. Kane and the Culture of Fame in Antebellum America, Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2008.
  • Review Article Exploring Other Worlds: Margaret Fox, Elisha Kent Kane, and the Antebellum Culture of Curiosity, by David Chapin; The Reluctant Spiritualist: The Life of Maggie Fox by Nancy Rubin Stuart; and Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism, by Barbara Weisberg. Journal of the Early Republic, (Winter, 2005): 668-74.
  • Cover Article “U.S. History through American Studies.” American Studies Newsletter (Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association) 17, no. 1 (Fall 2005): 1.
  • Book Review Desert Patriarchy: Mormon and Mennonite Communities in the Chihuahua Valley by Janet Bennion. BYU Studies 4, no.2 (Fall 2005): 177-180.
  • Book Review The Earth is the Lord’s: A Narrative History of the Lancaster Conference by John Landis Ruth. Mennonite Quarterly Review, October, 2002 76:4.
  • Article “Heroic Ambition: The Early Life of Dr. Elisha Kent Kane.” American Philosophical Society Library Bulletin, Fall, 2001, n.s. 1:2. Online
  • Article “Moving Stubbornly Toward the Kingdom of God: Mennonite Identity in the Twenty-First Century.” Mennonite Quarterly Review, January, 2001 75:1 89-98.
  • Short Story “Jed Said No.” What Mennonites Are Thinking, 1999. Good Books, 1999.
  • Article “A Sentinel for the Saints: Thomas Leiper Kane and the Mormon Migration.” Nauvoo Journal, Spring, 1998, 10:1 17-27.
  • Thesis Article “Raising Kane: The Making of a Hero, the Marketing of a Celebrity.” Elisha Kent Kane Historical Society, 1997. Online
  • Article “Mennonites & Amish.” Encyclopedia of Civil Rights in America. Salem Press, 1997.

Scholarly Presentations and Abstracts

  • Panelist “Where American Studies is at Home/not Home: Working in Different Disciplinary and Professional Contexts.” American Studies Association. Denver, CO (Nov. 2016)
  • Moderator “In the Heart of the Shenandoah Valley: Visions of Harrisonburg, 1867-2017.” Virginia Forum. Jamestown, VA (March 2016)
  • Panelist “Regional Chapters Committee: A Discussion with ASA Regional Student Award Winners.” American Studies Association. Toronto Canada (Oct. 2015)
  • Presentation “What Makes America American?, or, Rock’n’Roll & Pickup Trucks: An American Studies Look at U.S. Culture.” U.S. Consulate General, Chennai American Library, India (July 2015, invited)
  • Presentation “There’s Somethin’ ‘bout a Truck: America’s Love Affair with the Pickup Truck.” Eastern American Studies Association, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA (March 2013)
  • Panelist “ASA Students’ Committee: Roundtable on the Results from the ASA Students Survey.” American Studies Association, San Juan, Puerto Rico (Nov. 2012)
  • Presentation “Sensation, Science & Scandal: The Popular Press in Antebellum America.” Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, Dayton, VA (May 2012, invited)
  • Moderator “Cultural Change through Popular Media.” Eastern American Studies Association, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ (March 2012)
  • Presentation “Damsels, Demons, & the Sensationalized South: Ned Buntline’s Civil War.” American Studies Association, Baltimore (Oct. 2011)
  • “The Prolific Profligate: Ned Buntline & His Literary World.” Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association, Pennsylvania State Capitol, Harrisburg PA (April 2011)
  • “Scoundrels! Secession! Sensation!: Ned Buntline, the Civil War, and the Demon of Fire.” Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association, La Salle University, Philadelphia (April 2010).
  • “Hope in Hard Times: Obama, FDR & the Construction of Hope in American Politics.” Klub Studenta Anglistike, Zagreb, Croatia (March, 2009).
  • “Rock n Roll in Black & White: Cultural Creation in the US Since the 1950s.” American Corner, Zagreb, Croatia (Nov, 2008 & March 2009); School of Economics, Vukovar, Croatia (Jan, 2009); American Corner, Zadar, Croatia (Feb, 2009); Turkish-American University, Istanbul, Turkey (Feb, 2009); University of Sarajevo, Bosnia (Feb, 2009); University Dzemal Bijedic, Mostar, Herzegovina (Feb, 2009).
  • with Dr. Iva Polak “Grave New World: The Early History of North America & Australia.” University of Sarajevo, Bosnia (Feb, 2009); University Dzemal Bijedic, Mostar, Herzegovina (Feb. 2009).
  • “Playing with the Spirits: Séances in Antebellum America.” Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association, Rochester, NY (April 2008)
  • Presidential Address “The American Studies Scholar: An Emersonian Perspective.” Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association, Baltimore, MD (March, 2007)
  • “When Caliban Impressed Prospero: Rethinking 19th-Century Exploration & Race Narratives.” Organization of American Historians, Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC (April, 2006)
  • “Teaching the Violent Edge of Non-Violent Reform.” Faith in Action Conference, Samford University, Birmingham, AL (Jan. 2006)
  • “Traveling Together: The Intertwined Ambitions of Elisha & Thomas Kane.” Kane Masonic Lodge / Elisha Kent Kane Historical Society, New York, NY (Jan. 2006, invited)

Exhibits, Performances and Productions

  • Public Interview with Civil Rights leader Dr. Vincent Harding Eastern Mennonite University (Feb. 27, 2014)
  • Chapel Take the First Step in Faith: A History of Change Toward Inclusion at Eastern Mennonite Eastern Mennonite University (Jan. 17, 2014)
  • TV Appearance Survey Questions How Challenging College Has Become. WHSV TV Harrisonburg, VA (May 2012)
  • Baccalaureate Address: Wisdom & Vanity: A Teacher’s Parting Words. Eastern Mennonite University (April 2012)
  • Chapel Faith This Far: African American History and Eastern Mennonite (EMHS March 2011, EMU Feb. 2011)
  • “The Histories We Tell Ourselves” Melva Kauffman Annual Lecturer (3 part series). Hesston College (Sept. 2010, invited)
  • “A Croatian Fulbright Sabbatical” EMU Tuesday Lunch series (April 2010)
  • Book Opening “Raising Kane: My 13-Year Obsession with a Dead Ex-Hero” American Corner, Zagreb, Croatia (April 2009)
  • “The Times They Are a Changin’: American Student Movements in the 1960-1970s.” Student Symposium during the Faculty of Philosophy Student Strike, University of Zagreb, Croatia (April, 2009)
  • “The First Thanksgiving: Cultural History & Cultural Construction” Gornjogradska Gimnazija, Zagreb, Croatia (Nov. 2008)
  • Chapel “Colleges, Christ & the Construction of Belief, or, How to Make a Mennonite” (EMU Feb, 2007; Hesston College Jan, 2007)
  • Baccalaureate Address “Wandering Wondering: An Eclectic Guide to ‘Walking Humbly with your God.’” Eastern Mennonite University (April, 2006)
  • Radio Appearance “Touring Virginia’s Black History.” by Martha Woodroof. Morning Edition & All Things Considered, Virginia Public Radio (Feb. 2, 2006).
  • Radio Appearance “Exploring Zenda.” by Martha Woodroof. Morning Edition & All Things Considered, Virginia Public Radio (Jan. 3, 2006).

Church, Community and Professional Service

Community & Professional Service

  • Visiting Professor, University of Zagreb, Croatia (March-April 2017)
  • Eastern American Studies Association Executive Committee (2004-present)
  • American Studies Association Regional Chapters Committee (2009-present)
  • American Studies Association Turpie Prize Committee for Excellence in American Studies (2013-present)
  • Breneman-Turner Mill Committee, Rockingham County, VA (2010-present)
  • Co-Instructor, “Back to the Fifties!” 6-part course for the Lifelong Learning Institute, James Madison University (March-April 2016)
  • Article Referee, Arctic: The Journal of the Arctic Institute of North America (2014)
  • Conference Coordinator, Eastern American Studies Association 2013 conference “E Pluribus Unum?: Unity, Division & the Making of American Identity” Organized and executed this 2-day event that included over 60 scholars and 100 participants from dozens of universities (March 2013)
  • Chair, Regional Chapters Committee of the American Studies Association (2011-2013)
  • Fulbright Scholar, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zabreb, Croatia (2008-09)
  • Consultant for undergraduate and masters American Studies programs and for the Humanities PhD program, University of Zagreb, Croatia (2008-09)
  • Review Editor for the journal Studia Romanica et Anglica Zagrebiensia Zagreb, Croatia (2008-09)
  • President, Eastern American Studies Association (2006-08)
  • Article Referee, Journal of the Early Republic (2007-08)
  • Book Manuscript Referee, American Philosophical Society (2007)
  • Board Member, Virginia Quatra-centennial Jamestown Celebration Committee for Harrisonburg & Rockingham County (2003-07)
  • Consultant for Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery on Elisha Kent Kane images (2006)

Church Service

  • Co-Coordinator, Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center’s annual Harvest Day (2014 & 2015)
  • Board Member, Events Committee of Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center (2010-present)
  • Board Member, Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center (2010-2013)
  • Usher, Community Mennonite Church (2011-present)
  • Youth Mentor, Community Mennonite Church (2006-2013)
  • Community Mennonite Church 40th Anniversary Committee (2011-2012)
  • Presenter, “Changes in Church & Society: WWII to Present” at the Leading a Changing Church in a Changing World Conference, Eastern Mennonite University (Oct. 2007)
  • Judge for the Mennonite Archives (Goshen, IN) John Horsch Mennonite Historical Essay Contest (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006)

Honors, Awards and Grants

  • Visiting Scholar Grant. University of Zagreb, Croatia (2017)
  • Sabbatical Award. Eastern Mennonite University (2008-09, 2017)
  • Fulbright Scholar, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb, Croatia (2008-09)
  • Summer Teaching Grant. Eastern Mennonite University (2002, 2004, 2006, 2011)
  • Lilly Faculty Pilot Project Grant. “Reaching Out, Teaching In: EMU & Harrisonburg’s African-American Community. (2005)
  • Summer Research Grant. Eastern Mennonite University (2002, 2003, 2004)
  • Quality Service Award. Eastern Mennonite University (Fall, 2002)
  • Grundy Resident Research Fellowship at the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA (1999)
  • University of Texas’ 2000-2001 Dissertation Fellowship (2000)

Professional Memberships

  • American Studies Association (1996-present)
  • Eastern American Studies Association (2001-present)

Professional Conferences Attended

  • American Studies Association (Denver, CO, Nov. 2016)
  • Eastern American Studies Association (Franklin & Marshall, PA, April 2016)
  • American Studies Association (Toronto, Canada, Oct. 2015)
  • Eastern American Studies Association (Philadelphia, PA, March 2014)
  • American Studies Association (Washington, DC, Nov. 2013)
  • Eastern American Studies Association (EMU, Harrisonburg, VA, March 2013)
  • American Studies Association (San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nov. 2012)
  • Eastern American Studies Association (Rutgers University, NJ, March 2012)
  • American Studies Association (Baltimore, MD, Oct. 2011)
  • Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association (Harrisburg, PA, April 2011)
  • American Studies Association (San Antonio, TX, Oct. 2010)
  • Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association (Philadelphia, PA, April 2010)

New Courses Taught


  • HONRS 111 Ruling Ideas
  • HIST 121 Introduction to History & Methods
  • HIST 131 American History to 1865
  • HIST 142 American History 1865 to the Present
  • HIST 222 African American History
  • HIST 312 History of Nineteenth-Century America, A Novel Approach
  • HIST 321 Modernizing America, 1865-1940
  • HIST 411 History of Recent America, 1941-Present
  • HIST 422 History Tutorial (changes topic each semester)
  • HIST 452 Seminar in History
  • History & Culture of Ireland & Northern Ireland (Cross Cultural)
  • GVC 221 Cities
  • HONRS 311 Honors Colloquia: The History We Tell Ourselves
  • “Religion in American Literature & Culture” (University of Zagreb, Fall 2008)
  • “America Since WWII: A Cultural & Literary History” (University of Zagreb, MA course, Fall 2008,)
  • “Recent America, a Thematic Study” (University of Zagreb PhD course, Fall 2008)
  • “American Literature: A Post-WWII Cultural Study” (University of Zagreb, Spring 2009)
  • “American Literature: The Black Experience 1900-Now” (University of Zagreb, MA course, Spring 2009)

EMU Service

  • Director, University Honors Program (2011-present)
  • Chair, Honors Council and Committee (2011-present)
  • EMU Centennial Committee (2013-present)
  • Undergraduate Council (2003-04, 2009-present)
  • Washington Community Scholars’ Center Advisory Board (2009-present)
  • Centennial Book Advisory Committee (2011-present)
  • EMU Presidential Search Committee (2015-2016)
  • Chair, History Department (2003-2004, 2009-2012)
  • Admissions Committee (2009-2012)
  • Intellectual Life Committee (2010-2012)
  • Chair, Search Committee for Political Studies position (2009-2011)
  • Gen-Ed Core/Undergraduate Council Executive Committee (2009-2011)
  • Co-Leader of Summer Cross-Cultural to Ireland/Northern Ireland (2010)