Sheila Cordner currently teaches at Boston University. She studied at the University of Oxford, and received a B.A. from Smith College, an M.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from Boston University. Cordner's research focuses on intersections between literature and the history of education in nineteenth-century Britain. Her work often uncovers links between the challenges facing higher education in the nineteenth century and those confronting today’s universities.
Cordner’s first book, Education in Nineteenth-Century British Literature: Exclusion as Innovation (Routledge, 2016), challenged scholarship which had long argued that broadened access to institutional education in nineteenth century Britain points to the reformist and democratic spirit of the age. She shows how not all reformers celebrated the institution; writers such as Jane Austen, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Thomas Hardy, and George Gissing used their position as outsiders excluded by Oxford and Cambridge by gender or class to argue for the value of learning outside of schools altogether.
Articles related to this book have appeared in Victorian Review and the edited collection Reading and the Victorians (Ashgate, 2015). She has been invited to give talks related to the project at venues including the Victorian Literature and Culture Seminar at Harvard University, the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, and the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Massachusetts chapter. In addition, she has presented her work at numerous conferences including the North American Victorian Studies Association joint conference in Venice, the Australasian Victorian Studies Association conference at the University of Hong Kong, and the Northeast Modern Language Association conference at the University of Toronto.
Her other research interests include children's literature, service learning, and digital humanities. Cordner’s work has been supported by the Humanities Foundation at Boston University, the Boston University Arts Initiative, HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory), and NINES (Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship).
Before pursuing university teaching and academic writing, she worked in the public relations department at Carnegie Hall and at Columbia University Press in New York, and taught at Dana Hall School and Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts.