Joseph Rezek


Assistant Professor of English

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

Room 433
For CV click here

My research and teaching focus on English-language literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  As a scholar with roots in Atlantic studies and the history of the book, I am interested in exploring the literary, historical, and material connections that brought the Anglophone Atlantic together into a single, though internally various, culture.  The transatlantic circulation of texts is my point of departure for telling new stories about literary and cultural history – especially the history of aesthetics, the rise of nationalism, and the culture and politics of the early black Atlantic.  I am also interested in methodology and have written about the practice of archival research and the field of Transatlantic Studies.

My first book, London and the Making of Provincial Literature (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), argues that modern aesthetic theory was shaped by the success of Irish, Scottish, and American authors who triumphed in the London book trade, including Maria Edgeworth, Walter Scott, Washington Irving, and James Fenimore Cooper.  These influential provincial authors devised a range of strategies to transcend the national rivalries of the literary field.  Their idealizations of cross-cultural communion, I argue, helped shape the Romantic-era belief that literature inhabits an autonomous sphere in society.  Examining the production of books and the circulation of material texts between London and the provincial centers of Dublin, Edinburgh, and Philadelphia, the book shows how the publishing vortex of London inspired a dynamic array of economic and aesthetic practices that shaped an era in literary history.

I have also published essays and given talks related to my second project, Early Black Writing and the Politics of Print. This project provides a new account of the production and reception of black printed texts in the half century after Phillis Wheatley’s Poems (1773) and Ignatius Sancho’s Letters (1782) first raised the issue of black authorship in the age of slavery and revolution.  Through an attention to the politics of format, the mutability of texts, the importance of patronage and collaboration, and transatlantic networks of dissemination and exchange, I argue that early black readers and writers displayed a practical and conceptual interest in print as a medium capable of disrupting the racialized public sphere.  In addition to Wheatley and Sancho, the project considers John Marrant, Olaudah Equiano, Absalom Jones, William Hamilton, Prince Saunders, David Walker, and Mary Prince.

As a teacher in English and American Studies, I specialize in the history of the novel, theories of modernity and the Atlantic world, 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 Associate Editor of Studies in Romanticism, which has been published by the Graduate School of 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)
  • “Print, Writing, and the Difference Media Make: Revisiting The Signifying Monkey after Book History.”  Early American Literature (forthcoming, 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
  • Early Black Writing and the Politics of Print
  • “Richard Bentley’s Standard Novelist: James Fenimore Cooper”
  • “The Unauthorized Lives of the Early Black Atlantic: John Marrant”
Honors, Grants, and Awards
  • 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
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