Professor Cain received his undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, in 1974 from Tufts University and both the M.A. (1976) and the Ph.D. (1978) from Johns Hopkins University. He became a member of the Wellesley faculty in 1978, and has taught in the American Studies Program as well as in the English Department.
The author of The Crisis in Criticism (Johns Hopkins UP, 1984) and F. O. Matthiessen and the Politics of Criticism (U of Wisconsin P, 1988), Professor Cain has edited a number of books, including William Lloyd Garrison and the Fight Against Slavery: Selections from The Liberator (Bedford Books, 1995), The Blithedale Romance: A Cultural and Critical Edition (Bedford Books, 1996), and A Historical Guide to Henry David Thoreau (Oxford UP, 2000).
Professor Cain also is the author of a monograph on American literary and cultural criticism, 1900-1945, included in The Cambridge University Press History of American Literature, vol. 5 (2003).
He is a co-editor of the Norton Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism (2001; 2nd ed., 2010), and the editor of a 2-volume anthology of American Literature (Penguin, 2004; 2nd ed., 2013). He also is the author or editor of many textbooks on literature and composition.
Professor Cain’s recent publications include essays on George Orwell, Ralph Ellison, Edith Wharton, Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, and Willa Cather.