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 which was formed in 2003 to promote the study of working-class culture and politics. His community activism includes Pittsburghers for Public Transit and the Quakers’ Earthcare Working Group.  He is a long-time member of the local acoustic band Smokestack Lighting.


Research and Publications: Coles teaches and writes about working-class literature, contemporary poetry, detective fiction and crime drama, environmental writing, 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.  A collection of essays, A History of American Working-Class Literature, co-edited with Paul Lauter, was published in April 2017 by Cambridge University Press.  Coles has been a regular contributor to the Working-Class Perspectives blog.  His current projects include educational memoir writing and studies in international farm fiction.



Recent Graduate Courses

            Writing / Class

            Narratives of Teaching and Learning

            Seminar in Pedagogy

Recent Undergraduate Courses

            Working-Class Literature

            Detective Fiction

            Travel Writing

            Secret Pittsburgh

            Literature and the Environment

            Freshman Seminar: Exploring Social Identity

            Freshman Seminar: Whodunnit?

            Freshman Seminar: What Work Is

            Freshman Seminar: War and/or Peace

            Freshman Seminar: Climate of Change


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