Nicholas Coles


Associate Professor
CL 617-L


Nicholas Coles holds BA and MA degrees from Oxford University and MA and PhD degrees from SUNY, Buffalo, and has been a member of Pitt’s English Department since 1980. For many years he directed the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, and he was until 2011 a Field Director of the National Writing Project, based at the University of California at Berkeley, working with teachers to improve students’ writing and academic performance in K-12 schools.  He was Pitt’s director of Composition from 2004 to 2008.

Coles is a past-president of the Working-Class Studies Association, and is a founding member of the Pittsburgh Collaborative for Working-Class Studies, a new multi-campus interdisciplinary organization, working with labor unions and community groups on issues of social and economic justice.

Research and Publications

Coles teaches and writes about literacy and pedagogy, working-class literature, contemporary poetry, environmentalism and climate change. His articles have appeared in College English and many other journals and edited collections. He is the co-editor, with Peter Oresick, of two collections of poetry about work: Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life (1990) and For a Living: The Poetry of Work (1995), both from the University of Illinois Press. American Working-Class Literature: An Anthology, was published by Oxford University Press in 2007, co-edited with Janet Zandy of Rochester Institute of Technology. He is currently working with co-editor Paul Lauter on a history of American working-class literature, under consideration at Cambridge University Press. He is a regular contributor to the Working-Class Perspectives blog.


Recent Graduate Courses

  •          Writing / Class
  •          Narratives of Teaching and Learning
  •          Seminar in Pedagogy

Recent Undergraduate Courses

  •          Working-Class Literature
  •          Detective Fiction
  •          Travel Writing
  •          Reading Poetry
  •          Freshman Seminar: Exploring Social Identity
  •          Freshman Seminar: Whodunnit?
  •          Freshman Seminar: What Work Is
  •          Freshman Seminar: War and/or Peace


Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life
For a Living: The Poetry of Work
American Working-Class Literature