Shirley Samuels was born in Chicago and moved around the United States before going to school at the University of California at Berkeley. Now she is a professor of English. Previously, she served as the chair of the History of Art Department and the director of Women's Studies at Cornell. She has held professorial appointments at the University of Delaware, Brandeis University, and Princeton University. Samuels has taught extensively in the area of American literary studies. Her courses, writing, and academic talks have explored the nature of sentiment, romance, and iconography in American literature and culture. She has written numerous books, including Reading the American Novel, 1780-1865 (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2004) and Romances of the Republic: Women, the Family and Violence in the Literature of the Early American Nation (Oxford University Press, 1996).