Dr. Kelly earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She specializes primarily in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British literature and contemporary literary criticism. She is author of two books on Jonathan Swift—Jonathan Swift and the English Language (1988) and Jonathan Swift and Popular Culture: Myth, Media, and the Man (2002), which was named by Choice (the journal of the American Library Association) as one of the “Outstanding Academic Titles of 2002.” In addition, she has published numerous articles on Jonathan Swift, on early Black British writers and representations of the "Africanist Presence" (Toni Morrison's term), and—most recently—on literary manifestations of anxieties about species boundaries.. These articles have appeared in Swift Studies, PMLA, ELH, Philologus, SEL, CLA, BMa: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review, JECS, among others. Her article on “Gulliver as Pet and Pet-keeper was chosen to be included in Harold Bloom’s Modern Critical Views of Gulliver’s Travels, which advertises itself as presenting “the best current criticism on the most widely read and studied” works of literature.
Dr. Kelly has reviewed books for the Journal of English and Germanic Philology and The Scriblerian and has served as manuscript referee for PMLA, SEL, andEighteenth Century Life. She has participated in symposia in Muster, Germany (1989 & 1995), the international “Swift and Irish Studies” conference at the University of Notre Dame (1991), and the celebration of the Swift Tercentenary in Dublin, Ireland (1995). In 1993 she served as Vice President of the East Central society for Eighteenth Century Studies, and in 1995 she served as President. A series of Howard University Faculty Research Grants, a Folger Fellowship, and the American Council of Learned societies have supported Professor Kelly’s research.
In the Department of English, she has served as Department Co-Chair (1988), Director of Freshman English Program (1988-1991), Director of Graduate Studies (2006), chairman of the Curriculum Committee (numerous consecutive terms), and on many other departmental committees. In the English Department, Dr. Kelly’s undergraduate courses include Sophomore Seminar II, Poetry Across Cultures, Black British Writers of the 18th Century, The Art of the Essay. On the graduate level, she teaches specialized courses in Restoration and Eighteenth Century literature. She has directed a number of M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations, two of which were revised by the students and published.