Dr Kathryn Napier Gray

Dr Kathryn Napier Gray

Associate Professor (Reader) in Early American Literature

School of Society and Culture (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)

Dr Kathryn Napier Gray can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Natural history
  • Print culture
  • Transatlantic
  • Colonialisation
  • New England Studies
  • The Mayflower
  • Indigenous studies
  • American literature


With research specialisms in early American literary studies, and the literatures of colonial New England especially, my work responds to questions of literary form, transatlantic print culture, and the politics of the cultural change and transformation in the colonial and indigenous landscapes of North America. More recently, I've developed research and teaching interests in early American environmental literatures and natural history. 

My undergraduate teaching includes modules on American literature, including American crime fiction, and I have supervised, postgraduate projects on narratives of cultural encounter, dystopian fiction, narratives of gender in early modern and contemporary fiction, eighteenth-century letters, contemporary genre fiction and war poetry. I supervise projects in creative writing and literary studies.

As part of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing in 2020, I supported the planning and delivery of a number of public projects, including the prize-winning  Legend and Legacy exhibition at The Box (Plymouth’s Museum and Art Gallery) and the National Trust’s Tide and Time curatorial response. Postgraduate students have had opportunities to participate in these projects as part of their research training. In January 2020, I organised and hosted a day-long event showcasing research-led Mayflower-related projects at the University of Plymouth’s Research Festival.

My research, conferences and other research projects have been funded by the British Academy, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Association for American Studies, Californian Institute for Technology, the University of Glasgow and the University of Plymouth, as well as the US Embassy Small Grants scheme. As part of my research, I've worked with archival resources from the American Antiquarian Society (Mass.), the Huntington Library (LA), The Royal Society, The Bodleian, and the British Library.  

I was Research Co-ordinator and PGR lead for my Research Unit (UoA) 27 for REF 2021. I’m Strategic Lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business (UoP) and I'm Chair of the Research Ethics and Integrity, sub-panel for Arts and Humanities.


I completed my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Glasgow, moving to Plymouth after completing my PhD in 2004.

Professional membership

  •  British Association for American Studies
  •  Society for Early Americanists 
  •  Transatlantic Studies Association

Roles on external bodies

  • British Association for American Studies, Publications and Knowledge Exchange Committee, Deputy Chair.
  • Advance HE's Athena Swan Governance Committee, member.



Teaching interests

Undergraduate teaching

My core teaching interests are in American literature, and my two option modules, The American Novel and American Crime Writing, are part of the undergraduate English and Creative Writing programmes. In these modules students read some classic American texts, from Nathaniel Hawthorne and F.Scott Fitzgerald in American Novel, to writers like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy in American Crime. 

I also lead the work-based learning module, Working with Literature, which gives students the opportunity to complete a placement as part of their undergraduate programme. The module also helps students articulate their subject-specific and transferable skills. 

Graduate teaching

I contribute to the MA English and the MA Environmental Humanities with a module that explores recent American fiction in the context of environmental change. The module, 'Natural Knowledge and Narrative Knowing: Literatures of Nature in North America', seeks to contrast Euro-American models of natural knowledge with Indigenous North American knowledge systems.  

I am interested in postgraduate research projects that are shaped around questions of cultural transformation and change, specifically in relation to print cultures, nature and the environment, settler colonialism, and indigenous cultures in the colonial Atlantic world.

Staff serving as external examiners

BA (Hons) American Studies, University of East Anglia (2012-2015)



Research interests

I completed my PhD at the University of Glasgow, and my first monograph, John Eliot and the Praying Indians of Massachusetts Bay, was published by Bucknell University Press in 2013. My research interests focus on 17th and 18th century transatlantic literature and culture and my next book-length study, Transatlantic Travel, will be an examination of natural historical texts and transatlantic fictions in the long eighteenth century.

Research groups

Other research

Research Impact: 4* Impact Case Study (REF 2021)

‘Mayflower 400: Decolonising cultural heritage and transforming narratives of remembering’

This ICS included partners in the culture and heritage sector, national and international media, volunteer groups, Plymouth City Council, artists collectives, the US Embassy (London), Native American artists, and Native American cultural leaders. From the intellectual framing of the year-long programme of events and exhibitions to the grassroots training of individual Mayflower volunteers, my research shaped:

  • The Legend and Legacy exhibition for The Box (Plymouth City Council’s Museum, Art Gallery and Archive), https://www.theboxplymouth.com/past-projects/mayflower-400-legend-and-legacy: an international loans exhibition, with objects, manuscripts, and original documents from the British Museum and the British Library, the Lakenhal (Netherlands), the Smithsonian (Washington DC), and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (New York).

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

I have 3 PhD completions and 5 current PhD students.

I have examined 4 PhD projects.

Grants & contracts

 2020: BAAS / US Embassy Small Grants Programme: “What does it mean to remember?”, an SEA special Topics conference       

The US Embassy / BAAS, funded the 2016 The Mayflower and its Afterlives lecture at Plymouth University. (2016)

The Research Center for Urban Cultural History, UMass (Boston) and Plymouth University co-funded my participation in the planning ofa four-year project: “Explorations in the Urban Atlantic.” (2011)

Small Research Grant from the British Academy: funded tripsto the Bodleian Library, Dr Williams Library (London) and the Royal Society.(2009)

Californian Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Glasgow University: Researchtrip to the Huntington Library, California. (2003)

Malcolm Bradbury Award, for the best research proposal inthe field of American Literary Studies: Research trip to the American Antiquarian Society, Massachusetts. (2002)





  • Transatlantic Travel: Natural Histories and New World Fictions from Aphra Behn to Charles Brockden Brown (monograph, in preparation)
  • John Eliot and the Praying Indians of Massachusetts Bay: Communities and Connections in Puritan New England (Lewisburg: Bucknell UP, 2013)

 Edited books

  • William Bradford: Correspondence, Dialogues, and Other Writings. Co-edited with Kenneth P. Minkema (Yale), Francis J. Bremer (Emeritus, Millersville) & David Lupher (Washington) Colonial Society of Massachusetts Press. (under contract, forthcoming 2024)
  •  Revisiting Textual and Cultural Afterlives: Matoaka, Pocahontas, Rebecca, co-editor, Amy Morris (Cambridge) (in preparation, University of Virginia Press)
  • Transatlantic Literature and Transitivity, 1780-1850: subjects, texts, and print culture (Co-edited with Annika Bautz) (Routledge, 2017)



Articles and chapters

 #28 "Puritanism in Literature, Stage and Film," Oxford Handbook of Puritanism, Francis J. Bremer, Ann L. Hughes, Greg Salazar, eds. OUP (under contract, forthcoming 2024)

“J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur,” (Bibliographic Essay) Oxford Bibliographies in American Literature (OUP) 2022

‘New World’ for the Speedwell project: Still/Moving’s ‘No New Worlds’ Public art exhibition, https://stillmoving.org/resources/new-worlds-the-language-of-the-new

‘ ‘Literary Performances’: Edward Kimber, the novel and natural knowledge in the eighteenth century,’ Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-America Literary Studies, 21 (1) 2017: 1-20.

 “humble auxiliaries to nature”: go-betweens and natural knowledge in Crèvecoeur’s Journey into Northern Pennsylvania and the State of New York’, Transatlantic Literature and Transitivity, 1780-1850: subjects, texts, and print culture, eds. Annika Bautz and Kathryn N. Gray  (Routledge, 2017)

 ‘Native American Voices in Colonial North America’ in the Routledge Companion to Native American Literature, ed. Deborah Madsen (Routledge, 2015)

 “Nature, Nation and Nostalgia: Narratives of Natural History in Spanish and British America (1750-1800) article co-authored with Helen Cowie (U of York), Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies Vol. 36 No. 4 (2013): 545-558

“Curiosities of the New World and John Winthrop, Jr.’s, Epistolary Visits to the Royal Society”, in Transatlantic Traffic and (Mis)Translations, eds Daniel Maudlin and Robin Peel (University Press of New England, 2013)

“ ‘How may wee come to serve God?’: Spaces of Religious Utterance in John Eliot’s Indian Tracts.” The Seventeenth Century 24 (1) 2009: 74-96

“ ‘keep wide awake in the eyes’: Seeing Eyes in Wendy Rose’s Poetry,” Transatlantic Voices: European Interpretations of Native American Literature. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. Pp.127-149.

“Captive and Captivating: The Spectacle of Animals in Early American Natural History” The Colonial Literatures of America (Eds) Susan Castillo and Ivy Schweitzer. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. Pp. 517-532.

 “N. Scott Momaday” (2000 words); “Reverend John Eliot” (600 words); “N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn” (2000 words) in, Literary Encyclopedia Online http://www.litencyc.com/LitEncycFrame.htm (2004)

“Written and Spoken Words and Worlds: John Eliot’s Algonquian Translation” Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary Relations 7 (2) 2003: 241-260.

Other Publications



Reports & invited lectures

Select research seminars / conference papers:

  • June 2023, Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the Society of Early Americanists, ‘Natural Histories and ‘New world’ fictions: Science and Satire in William Byrd’s Histories’. (Maryland)
  • March 2021, Twelfth Biennial Conference of Society of Early Americanists, ‘‘A favourable construction’: Assembling and Editing Mourt’s Relation’ (Atlanta, online)
  • August 2020, Four Nations Mayflower conference, "Linear and non-linear narrative: The fragments of Mourt's Relation.” (University of Leiden)
  • January 2020, American Historical Association annual conference, invitation to speak at the Mayflower anniversary roundtable event: ‘400 Years since Plymouth’ (New York)
  • May 2020, English and Creative Writing Research seminar, ‘Curating Cultural Heritage: Co-production and Co-creation.’ (Plymouth)
  • March 2019, Society of Early Americanists Eleventh Biennial Conference, ‘Unreadable Texts: Books as Objects, Objects as Books, and the Challenges of Exhibiting the Mayflower Narrative’ (Eugene, Oregon)
  • July 2017, “Discourses of Nature in the Eighteenth Century Novel: Edward Bancroft’s History of Charles Wentworth (1770)”, Symbiosis, the 11th Biennial Conference, ‘Transatlantic Returns & Revisions’ (Buffalo, NY)
  • February 2017, ‘Natural Histories and New World Fictions: Edward Kimber, Edward Bancroft and eighteenth- century narrative form’, University of Cambridge, American literature seminar series
  • July 2016, Transatlantic Studies Association annual conference, ‘‘the Chain of the Narration’: Edward Kimber and eighteenth-century literature’ (Plymouth)
  • June 2015, Society of Early Americanists biennial conference, ‘Keyword Panel: Devotion / Conversion’ (Chicago)
  • July 2013, Roots, Routes, and Routs (a two-day colloquium), ’European Experts in Crevecoeur’s America’ (Plymouth University)
  • July 2013, Transatlantic Studies Association annual conference: ‘Exchange and Expertise: The cultures of natural history in the 18th century’ (University of Northumbria)
  • February 2009,UEA Research Seminar: “From First Fruits to Dying Speeches: John Eliot, praying Indians and performances of faith in 17th- century New England” (UEA)

Conferences organised

  • July 2023, Transatlantic Studies Association annual conference (Plymouth)
  • August 2020, Four Nations Mayflower conference (University of Leiden, steering committee member)
  • June 2020, Society for Early Americanists Special topics conference, with Exeter University (postponed, due to Covid)
  • July 2020, Transatlantic Studies Association annual conference, University of Lisbon (responsible for strategic theme – Transatlantic Crossings and the Mayflower anniversary) (delayed until 2021)
  • March 2017, ‘Pocahontas and After: historical culture and transatlantic encounters, 1617-2017’ (steering group committee member), a conference at the British Library and the Institute for Historical Research (London).
  • July 2016, Transatlantic Studies Association annual conference (Plymouth)
  • July 2013, Roots, Routes, and Routs (a two-day colloquium on Transatlantic Literary Cultures) (Plymouth)

Other academic activities

Media appearances:
  • Scholarly podcasts: Legend and Legacy audio podcasts (2019/2020), detailing and accounting for objects and texts from the exhibition: https://soundcloud.com/theboxplymouth/sets/mayflower-400-podcast-series : 9 audio research pieces: William Bradford’s Of Plimouth Plantation (circa 1630-50), Mourt’s Relation (1622), Edward Winslow, Good News from New England (1623), John Eliot’s Algonquian Bible (1663), The Second Pierce Patent; Alden’s Geneva Bible; William Wood, New England Prospect (1634), the Leiden map (circa 1600); Armour.
  • Radio 4’s Beyond Belief
  • Radio 3’s Free Thinking
  • BBC’s Songs of Praise
  • Dan Snow’s History Hit, The Mayflower: 400th Anniversary Special
  • Dan Snow History Hit Live and Podcast, Thanksgiving.
  • News coverage: Times Radio’s live broadcast ‘On this Day.’ BBC Spotlight, ITV Westcountry, Globals News, Radio Devon, Radio Plymouth, The Telegraph

Additional information


VC’s Inaugural Civic and Public Engagement Award (UoP, 2021): Winner

Outstanding Impact in Creativity, Culture and Society (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business, UoP, 2022): Winner

The Malcolm Bradbury Award, for the best proposal in the Field of American Literary Studies. Short-term travel award to support research conducted at the American Antiquarian Society archives, Worcester, Massachusetts. (2002): Winner