Elizabeth Hoiem

Assistant Professor

PhD, English, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Room 234, 501 E. Daniel St.


Research focus

History of children's literature and material culture, nonfiction literature or informational media for children and youth, popular science writing, history of science, new literacy studies and child readers, child labor, thing theory, fantasy and science fiction, automata, digital humanities pedagogy.

Honors and Awards

  • OpEd/Public Voices Fellowship, sponsored by the University of Illinois System, 2023-2024.
  • Humanities Research Institute (HRI) Prize for Best Faculty Research, 2021
  • Children’s Literature Association’s Judith Plotz Emerging Scholar Award, 2019
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), 12 month fellowship, 2018-2019, award amount: $50,400
  • Humanities Released Time (HRT), UIUC Campus Research Board, Spring 2018, award amount: $14,000


Elizabeth Massa Hoiem’s research intervenes in field of children’s literature by analyzing the rise of playful learning, or “instruction and delight,” in the context of colonization and child labor. Her work draws on theoretical and historical perspectives from working-class history, history of education, material culture studies, history of science, and literacy studies.

Funded by a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, her forthcoming book, The Education of Things: Mechanical Literacy in British Children’s Literature, 1762-1860 (University of Massachusetts Press, winter 2023) reveals the class politics behind the playful literature, toys, and learning aids created during this period to teach reading along with science, technology, and economics. Hoiem argues that with the decline of classical learning and the rise of manufacturing, skillsets once associated with physical labor, such as tinkering or experimentation, became essential new literacies for an industrial economy. Families taught their children “mechanical literacy,” or the ability to interpret the laws governing how things are manipulated, created, purchased, manufactured, and exchanged. To do this, wealthy families favored playful learning, as distinct from learning through work, while working-class authors reclaimed manual labor as a legitimate source of knowledge about the material world.
Hoiem received the 2019 Judith Plotz Emerging Scholar Award for her article on 1830s radical texts for working children, which challenges the idea that children’s literature was written by and for the middle-classes, by investigating broadsides, protest songs, prayers for shorter work hours, and radical journalism. Her essay on representations of slavery across 200 years of sugar production stories for children won the 2021 Illinois Humanities Research Institute Prize for Best Faculty Research. She is currently a fellow with The OpEd Project and the University of Illinois System.
Hoiem earned degrees in English (BA) and communication design (BFA) from SUNY University at Buffalo in 2002, cultural studies (MA) from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004, and English (PhD) from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013. She taught children’s literature and Victorian literature at East Carolina University before joining the iSchool in 2014.

Courses currently teaching

Office hours

By appointment, please contact professor

Publications & Papers

Hoiem, Elizabeth Massa. The Education of Things: Mechanical Literacy in British Children’s Literature, 1762-1860, forthcoming from The University of Massachusetts Press, winter 2023/2024.
Hoiem, Elizabeth Massa. “The Child-Centered Universe of Nineteenth-Century Children’s Nonfiction.” In A Companion to Children’s Literature, edited by Karen Coats, Deborah Stevenson, and Vivian Yenika-Agbaw, 58-70. Wiley Press, 2022.
Hoiem, Elizabeth Massa. “The Progress of Sugar: Consumption as Complicity in Children’s Books about Slavery and Manufacturing, 1790-2015.” Children’s Literature in Education 52, no. 2 (June 2021): 162-82. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-020-09411-y (awarded HRI prize)
From Philosophical Experiment to Adventure Fiction: English Adaptations of French Robinsonades and the Politics of Genre.” Children’s Literature 46 (2018): 1-29. https://doi.org/10.1353/chl.2018.0001
Tracy, Daniel G. and Elizabeth Massa Hoiem. “Scaffolding and Play Approaches to Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Assessment and Iteration in Topically-Driven Courses.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 11, no. 4 (2017). 16 pages.
Hoiem, Elizabeth Massa. “Radical Cross-Writing for Working Children: Toward a Bottom-Up History of Children’s Literature.” The Lion and the Unicorn 41, no.1 (January 2017): 1-27. https://doi.org/10.1353/uni.2017.0001 (awarded Judith Plotz prize)
Hoiem, Elizabeth Massa. “The Fantasy of Talking Back: Susanna Clarke’s Historical Present in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.” Strange Horizons 13 (October 2008). Reprint, “Tenth Anniversary Highlights.” Strange Horizons 27 (September 2010).
Hoiem, Elizabeth Massa. “World Creation as Colonization: British Imperialism in ‘Aldarion and Erendis.’” Tolkien Studies 2 (Spring 2005): 75-92. https://doi.org/10.1353/tks.2005.0020
Public writing
Girls should be free to make messes and keep the science tidy” in Visible Magazine, October 4, 2023.