Lori Askeland, Ph.D.

Lori Askeland Professor of English
(937) 327-7061
Hollenbeck Hall 123


Inspired by an undergraduate curriculum that emphasized ethics in the Western tradition at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, Lori Askeland loves literature that, in Marge Piercy's words, is designed "To Be of Use." Words that seek to bring new ways of being into the world. Words that work to bend the long arc of history toward justice. Graduate school at the University of Kansas introduced her to the slave narrative tradition and the powerful abolitionist writings of the mid-19th century. Her research projects gradually began to focus on the complex history of adoption and foster care as they were beginning to develop in the same period, and the orphan character in literary works in relation to histories of slavery and forced relocation became the focus of her dissertation and her subsequent academic research. As a teacher of literature at Wittenberg University and engaged political activist, she strives to work at the intersection of poetry and public policy. She has edited a volume on Children and Youth in Adoption, Orphanages, and Foster Care, and has written peer-reviewed articles on a variety of writers including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Toni Morrison, Fanny Fern, and Octavia Butler.

Notable Accomplishments

  • Elected to the national executive committee of the MLA's Association of the Departments of English, 2018-2021
    • ADE President from Jan. 2020 - Jan. 2021
  • Certified External Reviewer, MLA, 2020-Present
  • Ohio State University, 2014, Digital Media and Composition Institute
  • Gay-Straight Alliance Award for "Building a More Diverse Campus," 2012
  • Wittenberg Woman of the Year, 2008
  • Campus Principal Investigator, Campus Climate Report, under Sue Rankin, President's Diversity Task Force, 2007
  • Wittenberg liaison to the Lilly Fellows Program in the Humanities and Arts, 1998-present. Helped secure several external grants and fellowships for Wittenberg faculty and students. Served on the National Network Board from 2006-2010.

Selected Courses Taught

  • Orphans! The Dependent Child in US History, Literature, Law and Public Policy (Honors Seminar)
  • Outlaw Love: American Stories of Love and the Law from Thomas Jefferson to Loving v. Virginia, and Beyond
  • Pursuing Happiness?  American Women’s Literature, 1800-present
  • Money, Debt, and American Dreaming: American Literary Genealogies
  • Introduction to Native American Literature
  • So They Say...: Challenging Conventional Wisdom (College Writing and Research)
  • Stories and Theories of Their Own: American Women's Literature from 1800-present
  • The Orphan in Classic American Literature: From Huckleberry Finn to Jane Jeong Trenka
  • By Any Means Necessary: Political Resistance and African American Literature
  • Bound and Determined: Women in Captivity in American Literature


  • Ph.D., University of Kansas
  • M.A., University of Kansas
  • B.A., Luther College

Research Interests

  • Adoption, foster care and reproductive justice in US literature
  • American women writers, especially fiction and memoir
  • The literature of slavery and human trafficking
  • Intersectional feminist / critical race theory (Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Sara Ahmed, Mimi Thi Nguyen, Lauren Berlant)

Community Service

  • Group facilitator, Women Empowering Women, Dayton Correctional Institution, 2019-present (on hiatus due to CoVid)
  • Hope Through Harmony (Inside/Outside Women's Choir at Dayton Correctional) World House Choir, 2016-present (on hiatus due to CoVid)
  • Springfield Leadership Council, Planned Parenthood, 2009-present
  • Council Member, Vice-President of the Village Council of Yellow Springs, 2007-2015
  • Board of Directors, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, 2010-2016

Selected Publications

Book (Edited Volume)
Children and Youth in Adoption, Orphanages and Foster Care, Greenwood, 2006.

Selected Articles and Reviews
A Response to Grawe, Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education. ADE Bulletin 158 (2020), pp. 91-100.

“Foster Care in the United States.” The SAGE Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA. 2020. 

Review of Bitterroot: A Salish Memoir of Transracial Adoption. By Susan Devan Harness. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2018. Adoption and Culture, vol. 7, no. 2 (2019): 297-303. 

"How Thoroughly He Has Stolen My Child: Adoption, Abduction, Slavery, Religion and Imperialism in Octavia E. Butlers Parable Novels." Adoption and Culture, vol. 5, 2017, pp. 49-63.

Rev. essay of The Traffic in Babies: Cross-Border Adoption and Baby-Selling Between the United States and Canada, 1930-1972, by Karen A. Balcom, University of Toronto Press, 2011. 356 pages. Somebody's Children: The Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption, by Laura Briggs, Duke University Press, 2012. 360 pages. Babies Without Borders: Adoption and Migration Across the Americas, by Karen Dubinsky, New York University Press, 2010. 199 pages. Adoption and Culture, vol. 6, 2017, pp. 116-124.

"Adoption and Orphan Tropes in Literary Studies." Adoption and Culture, vol. 4, 2014, pp. 13-25.

Rev. essay of Adopting America: Childhood, Kinship, and National Identity in Literature, by Carol J. Singley; Claiming Others: Transracial Adoption and National Belonging, by Mark C. Jerng; and Kin of Another Kind: Transracial Adoption in American Literature, by Cynthia Callahan.  Studies in American Naturalism, vol 6, no.1 2011, pp. 98-102. 

"Un-bridaled Pageantry, or Here Comes the Eruption of Queer Desires." Review of The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern American Culture, by Elizabeth Freeman. American Quarterly, vol. 56 no.1, 2004, pp. 163-170.

"'Has a Mother a Right to Her Children?': Fanny Fern's Urban Domesticity and the 'Birth' of Foster Care and Adoption in Mid-Nineteenth Century America," a/b: autobiography studies, vol. 18, no.2, 2003, pp. 171-195. 

"The Means of Draining the City of These Children": Domesticity and Romantic Individualism in Charles Loring Brace's Emigration Plan, 1853-1861." American Transcendental Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 2, 1998, pp. 145-162.

"Remodeling the Model Home in Uncle Tom's Cabin and Beloved." American Literature, vol. 64, 1992, pp. 785-805. Rpt in two books:

  • Subjects and Citizens: Nation, Race, and Gender from Oroonoko to Anita Hill. Edited by Michael Moon and Cathy N. Davidson. Duke University Press, 1995, pp. 395-416.
  • A Casebook on Beloved. Edited by William L. Andrews and Nellie Y. McKay. Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 159-179.
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