Joseph Rezek

Rezek photo BU (2)

Director of Graduate Studies, Associate Professor of English

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

Room 433
For CV click here

I specialize in early and nineteenth-century American literature, British Romanticism, the literature of the early black Atlantic, transatlantic studies, and the history of the book. In my scholarship, I tell new stories about the relationship between the technology of print and the literature, history, and culture of the post-Revolutionary Anglophone world.

My first book, London and the Making of Provincial Literature: Aesthetics and the Transatlantic Book Trade, 1800-1850 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), considers Irish, Scottish, and American writers who struggled to establish their own national literary traditions while publishing in London. By revising texts specifically for London markets, writing prefaces and footnotes addressed to English readers, and celebrating national particularity, provincial authors – including Maria Edgeworth, Walter Scott, Washington Irving, and James Fenimore Cooper – appealed to English audiences by seeking to exalt and purify literary exchange. Provincial booksellers and readers also responded to England’s dominance with rivalry, anger, ingenuity, and a fascinating array of economic and aesthetic practices. Throughout the book, I argue that the history of books and the history of aesthetics are interdependent and mutually illuminating. (The book’s Introduction and Table of Contents are available here.)

My second project, The Racialization of Print, will tell a new story about the changing relationship between technologies of print and emergent ideologies of “race” in the long eighteenth century. By “the racialization of print” I mean to identify the centuries-long process through which the presumed voice of the printed text became associated predominantly with whiteness even as non-white printed voices multiplied exponentially. I argue that the presumed whiteness of print – a lasting feature of Anglophone modernity, up through our own time – was an unsettled question before modern racial categories emerged, and that print’s racialization occurred partly as a reaction against the rise of an unprecedented, internationally recognized black print tradition. This shift in the history of media is best illuminated through the publications and protests of black authors like Phillis Wheatley, Ignatius Sancho, David Margrett, John Marrant, Olaudah Equiano, Ottabah Cugoano, William Hamilton, Paul Cuffee, the Baron de Vastey, Mary Prince, and David Walker, as they harnessed print’s possibilities and struggled with its radical limitations. Portions of this project have appeared in Early American Literature and Early African American Print Culture (ed. Cohen and Stein, 2012).

To read published selections from both of these projects, and my introduction to a recent special issue of Studies in Romanticism, “Romanticism in the Atlantic World,” see my webpage on

As a teacher in English and American Studies, I specialize in theories of modernity and the Atlantic world, the history of the novel, and the history of print in American culture. I am Co-Chair of the American Literature and Culture Seminar at the Mahindra Center at Harvard University, which focuses on American literature from all periods and draws together scholars from around Boston area. I am also co-founder of the Boston Area Romanticist Colloquium (BARC), and Associate Editor of Studies in Romanticism, which has been published at Boston University since 1961.



Selected Publications
  • London and the Making of Provincial Literature: Aesthetics and the Transatlantic Book Trade, 1800-1850  (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).  For the full introduction and table of contents, click here
  • “Bentley’s Standard Novelist: James Fenimore Cooper.” Transatlantic Literature and Author-Love in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Paul Westover and Ann Rowland (Palgrave, 2016).
  • Introduction to “Romanticism in the Atlantic World,” a guest-edited Special Issue of Studies in Romanticism 55.3 (fall 2016).
  • “Print, Writing, and the Difference Media Make: Revisiting The Signifying Monkey after Book History.”  Early American Literature 50.3 (2015).
  • “Satires of the Traveller in Edgeworth and Irving: From Ennui to Salmagundi.”  Symbiosis: A Journal of Transatlantic Literary & Cultural Relations 19.2 (2015).
  • “What We Need from Transatlantic Studies” American Literary History 26.4 (Winter 2014).  Full text available here.
  • “The Aesthetics of Archival Evidence,” co-authored with Carrie Hyde (UCLA), introduction to “Forum: Evidence and the Archive” (J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists 2.1, Spring 2014).  Full text available here 
  • “Furious Booksellers: The ‘American Copy’ of the Waverley Novels and the Language of the Book Trade” (Early American Studies, 11.3, Fall 2013).  Full text available here.
  • “The Print Atlantic: Phillis Wheatley, Ignatius Sancho, and the Cultural Significance of the Book,”  in Early African American Print Culture, ed. Jordan A. Stein and Lara Cohen (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012). Full text available here.
  • “Cooper and Scott in the Anglophone Literary Field: The PioneersThe Heart of Mid-Lothian, and the Effects of Provinciality” (ELH 78:4, Winter 2011).  Full text available here.
  • “The Orations on the Abolition of the Slave Trade and the Uses of Print in the Early Black Atlantic” (Early American Literature 45:3, Fall 2010).  Full text available here.
  • “A Story about History: PBS Takes on the War of 1812.” Contribution to “1812: New Perspectives on an Old War.” Common-Place 12.4 (July 2012).  Full text available here.
  • “Hail to the Chief: The Americanization of Walter Scott during the War of 1812.”  Martin Ridge Lecture at the Huntington Library.  Available as a podcast click here
Work in Progress
  • The Racialization of Print (book project)
  • “Early African American Literature and the British Empire.” Commissioned essay for African American Literature in Transition, 1800-1830, ed. Jasmine Nichole Cobb. Cambridge University Press. Forthcoming, 2018.
  • “Author; or, John Marrant’s Narrative Reconsidered.” Invited “Keyword” entry for special issue of Early American Studies, on Early American Literature and Material Texts, ed. Marcy Dinius and Sonia Hazard. Forthcoming, 2018.
  • “Transatlantic Currents in the Literary Book Trade.” Commissioned essay for The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture, Volume 5: U.S. Popular Print Culture to 1860, ed. Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Zboray. Forthcoming, 2018.
  • “Early Black Evangelical Writing and the Radical Limitations of Print.” Commissioned essay for African American Literature in Transition, 1750-1800, ed. Rhondda Thomas.  Cambridge University Press. Projected for 2019.
  • “Transatlantic Influences and Futures.” Commissioned essay for Irish Literature in Transition, 1780-1830, ed. Claire Connolly.  Cambridge University Press. Projected for 2019.
Honors, Grants, and Awards
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia (one semester). Fall 2016.
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the Huntington Library (two months). 2016.
  • Huntington Library Travel Grant to the United Kingdom. 2016.
  • Reese Fellowship in American Bibliography, Library Company of Philadelphia (one month).  2016
  • Short-Term Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society.  2016
  • Junior Faculty Fellow, Boston University Center for the Humanities (2013-4)
  • Newberry Library Short-Term Research Fellowship (2012)
  • The Katharine Pantzer Fellowship in the British Book Trades, Bibliographical Society of America (2012)
  • The Richard Beale Davis Prize, for the best article published in Early American Literature (2009-2010)
  • Barra Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, McNeil Center for Early American Studies
  • Carl H. Pforzheimer, Jr., Research Grant from the Keats-Shelley Association of America
  • Mayers Fellowship, Huntington Library
  • Albert M. Greenfield Dissertation Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Award, North American Society for the Study of Romanticism