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Laura OtisSamuel Candler Dobbs Professor Emerita of English


Laura Otis began her career as a scientist, earning her B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale and her M.A. in Neuroscience from the University of California at San Francisco. Before receiving her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Cornell University, she worked in labs for eight years. A fiction-writer as well as a literary scholar, she earned her MFA from Warren Wilson College.

Otis studies and teaches about the ways that scientific and literary thinking intersect and foster each other's growth. She works with British, Spanish, German, French, and North and South American literature, especially nineteenth-century novels.

She is especially interested in multisensory imagery and emotions and has recently worked as a guest scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

In addition to her academic books, Otis has written six novels, including Refiner’s Fire. In 2000, she was awarded a MacArthur fellowship for creativity. 

Her latest academic book, Banned Emotions, is available from Oxford University Press.


  • B.S., Yale University
  • M.A., University of California, San Francisco
  • Ph.D., Cornell University
  • M. F. A., Warren Wilson College

Selected Publications


   MemoryHiveCover.jpg      TantalusLettersCover.jpg   lacking substance     refiners fire

CleanBanned EmotionsRethinking Thought: Inside the Minds of Creative Scientists and ArtistsNetworking: Communicating with Bodies and Machines in the Nineteenth CenturyMuller's Lab Membranes: Metaphors of Invasion in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Science, and PoliticsLiterature and Science in the Nineteenth Century: An AnthologyOrganic Memory: History and the Body in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth CenturiesVacation Stories: FIVE SCIENCE FICTION TALES