Maurice S. Lee


Chair and Professor, Department of English

BA, Stanford University
PhD, University of California, Los Angeles

Room 414
For CV click here

Many of the books I love to read and discuss come from nineteenth-century America, and my scholarship focuses on authors such as Melville, Douglass, Poe, Stowe, Dickinson, and the Transcendentalists. My work tends to situate literature at the crossroads of intellectual and cultural history. My first book explores how writers used philosophical concepts to address the slavery crisis; and my second examines how authors encountered changing concepts of chance, not only in the domain of ideas (science, philosophy, theology), but also through developing social practices (gambling, insurance, weather forecasting, etc.). I am currently studying how mass print culture and quantitative methods shape the relationship between numbers and aesthetics in nineteenth-century American and British literature—a relationship that conditions current attitudes toward the digital humanities and accountability movement in education. Like my scholarship, my teaching asks how literature mediates ideas and experience, rational systems and everyday life. In addition to a range of survey courses, I teach classes in nineteenth-century literature that focus on such topics as slavery, science, pragmatism, transcendental poetics, and information revolutions.

Teaching and Research Interests
  • Nineteenth-century American literature with particular emphasis on the intersections of culture, politics, philosophy, and science
  • African American literature; the literature of slavery and the Civil War
  • Anglo-American literary and intellectual relations
Selected Publications
  • Uncertain Chances: Science, Skepticism, and Belief in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Oxford University  Press, 2012)
  • The Cambridge Companion to Frederick Douglass (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • Slavery, Philosophy, and American Literature, 1830–1860 (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
  • “Melville’s Philosophy of the History of Science: ‘The Apple-Tree Table,’” Melville’s Philosophies, ed. Branka Arsic and K.L. Evans (Palgrave, forthcoming 2017)
  • “Necessary Chances,” Amerikastudien/American Studies (forthcoming 2016)
  • “Afterword: Five Thoughts on the Canon,” J19 4:1 (2016), 125-30
  • “The End of the End of the Canon?’”, J19 4:1 (2016), 174-80
  • “Deserted Islands and Overwhelmed Readers,” ALH, 2014
  • Falsifiability, Confirmation Bias, and Textual Promiscuity,” J19, 2014
  • “Skepticism and The Confidence-Man,” The Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, 2013
  • “Poe by the Numbers: Odd Man Out?” Remapping Antebellum Culture, 2013
  • “Searching the Archives with Dickens and Hawthorne: Databases and Aesthetic Judgment after the New Historicism,” ELH,  2012
  • “Evidence, Coincidence, and Superabundant Information,” Victorian Studies (2011)
  • “Skepticism in Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Philosophy,” Oxford Handbook to Nineteenth-Century American Literature, 2011
  • “The 1850s: The First Renaissance of Black Letters,”Blackwell Companion to African-American Literature, 2010
  • “Probably Poe,” American Literature, 2009
  • “Dickinson’s Superb Surprise,” Raritan, 2008
  • “Melville, Douglass, the Civil War, Pragmatism,” Douglass/Melville: Essays in Relations, 2007
  • “Which World? Which Work? Which Melville?” Modern Intellectual History, 2007
  • “‘The Old and the New': Double Consciousness and the Literature of Slavery,” ESQ, 2004
  • “Absolute Poe: His System of Transcendental Racism,” American Literature, 2003
  • “Writing Through the War: The Civil War Poetry of Melville and Dickinson,” PMLA, 2000
  • “Melville’s Subversive Political Philosophy: ‘Benito Cereno’ and the Fate of Speech,” American Literature, 2000
  • “Du Bois the Novelist: White Influence, Black Spirit, and The Quest of the Silver Fleece,” African American Review, 1999
Work in Progress
  • A book project titled, Accounting for Literature: Managing Textual Excess in the Nineteenth Century
  • Essays toward an intellectual history of the black press
Fellowships and Awards
  • Henderson Senior Research Fellowship (BU Center for the Humanities, Spring 2014)
  • Hariri Institute Grant in the Digital Humanities (2013-2014)
  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title (for Uncertain Chances, 2012)
  • Neu Teaching Award (Boston University, College of Arts & Sciences, 2009)
  • Charles A. Ryskamp/ACLS Research Fellowship (2009)
  • NEH Research Fellowship (2007)
  • James Gargano Prize (Poe Studies Association, 2003)
  • NEH Summer Fellowship (2003)
  • Hennig Cohen Prize (Melville Society, 2001)