My Research

As a scholar of communication, my academic research focuses on how people express their emotions. How we talk influences how we and others feel, and so the words we use to describe our emotions are incredibly important. 

After growing up on the prairie, in Wichita, Kansas, I earned undergraduate degrees in Philosophy, Sociology, and Communication Studies (with honors) from the University of Kansas in 2002. I was awarded my M.A. in Communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2003, and my Ph.D. in 2006. I was twenty-six years old when I began my first job as an Assistant Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences at Penn State University in 2006.


The Art of Gratitude (Albany: SUNY Press, 2018).

In this book, I investigate how Americans have been taught to talk about gratitude—and how we might do a better job expressing this emotion to promote a healthier, more robust democratic culture.

“With an eye toward providing a healthy foundation for a democratic society, Engels makes the revolutionary proposal to reconstitute ‘gratitude’ as an emotion, idea, and value by including it with other democratic values such as equality and freedom. Injecting new life into traditional but flawed values is no small task, and Engels proposes searching far afield for new resources … Highly recommended.” — CHOICE

“There is no more urgent question before us in the US today than how to create a vigorous, non-resentful democratic community. Jeremy Engels’s The Art of Gratitude is a provocative meditation on different conceptions of that emotion and its political role, with attractive Walt Whitmanesque conclusions about joy and comradeship. Even people who disagree with many of the book’s historical claims, as I do, can find fun and insight in the critical engagement.” — Martha C. Nussbaum, The University of Chicago

“In his passionately argued book, The Art of Gratitude, Engels advances the position that this seemingly benign and often celebrated emotion has become ‘one of the primary means by which we are governed, managed, and controlled today’ … The Art of Gratitude speaks with a powerful sermonic voice that challenges us to consider what practices and struggles we are prepared to engage in to create a world for which we can be thankful.” — Nathan Crick, Quarterly Journal of Speech

“With this third book on emotion in a democratic setting … Jeremy Engels stands as a key contributor to the current reorientation towards emotion in rhetorical studies … The Art of Gratitude is a timely contribution to the age-old question of the role of emotion in rhetoric and politics and offers a strong statement on the centrality of emotion to cognition and persuasion.” — Lisa Storm Villadsen, Rhetoric Society of Europe’s Newsletter


The Politics of Resentment: A Genealogy (Penn State University Press, 2015).

In this book, I explore how resentment became a central emotion in American political discourse.

“Challenging in its call for reinvigorated rhetorical criticism, this is a book that makes us think.” —David Zarefsky, former president of the National Communication Association and of the Rhetoric Society of America


Enemyship: Democracy and Counter-Revolution in the Early Republic (Michigan State, 2010).

This book, based on my doctoral dissertation at the University of Illinois, maps the rhetoric of enemyship. Unlike friendship, whose bonds are forged by mutual affection, enemyship fabricates bonds of mutual antagonism for the enemy.