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John Wyatt Greenlee, PhD

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I am a medievalist and a cartographic historian.  My academic research is primarily driven by questions of how people perceive and reproduce their spaces:  how movement through the world — both experiential and imagined — becomes codified in visual and written maps.  I come to these questions through my interests in cartographic and spatial history, hodography and hodology, as well as the history of movement and pilgrimage.

My current project examines the cultural history of eels in England from the tenth through the seventeenth centuries, focusing on eels’ role in economic change, the growth of a national English identity. I am invested in connecting my historical study to research in ecology and conservation, and in bridging gaps between academic and popular conversations. My public history work towards these goals was profiled in a 2020 TIME article (link).

I find inspiration and guidance across a range of disciplinary studies and methods, but I primarily approach my research and my teaching as a historian.


PhD, Medieval Studies, Cornell University (2020)

MA, Medieval Studies, Cornell University (2017)

MA, History, East Tennessee State University (2013)

MPA, Nonprofit Management, Park University (2011)

BA, History and Classical Studies, Hamilton College (2000)

Personal History

Academia offers a second career for me, and my work history is varied.  Prior to returning to school, I spent a decade coaching collegiate volleyball in Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.  Beyond coaching, I have been a guide for whitewater rafting and caving expeditions in eastern Tennessee, researched issues of corporate sustainability and global risk for the Conflict Securities Advisory Group. Immediately after college I spent a year working for the Pete Seeger-founded quarterly publication, Sing Out! Magazine. Despite this variety, however, certain themes have remained true throughout my working life.  I have gravitated towards work in service of others, I have always sought to teach people, and I have found value in stories and histories. My past points towards my present, and gives me a wide scope of experiences to draw upon.