Laura Korobkin

Associate Professor

  • Title Associate Professor
  • Office 345
  • Phone 617-358-2543
  • Education BA, Williams College
    MA, Brandeis University
    JD, Harvard Law School
    PhD, Harvard University

For CV click here

My scholarship and teaching focus primarily on 19th century American fiction, with a special interest in women writers, intersections of law and narrative, and reading literature in a transatlantic context. I was a lawyer before becoming an English professor, and much of my scholarship uses a historically informed study of law to analyze literary works. I have written about such matters as Hawthorne’s presentation of the Puritan criminal justice system in The Scarlet Letter, Hurston’s handling of self-defense in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Brown’s use of trial structure, evidence, and concepts of insanity and murder in Wieland, and Stowe’s insertion of the complete text of an important antislavery court decision into Dred. Recently I have begun to work on the transatlantic context in which 19th-century fiction was written and read. My current project is a book about the creative rivalry between Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Dickens, the two best-selling authors in English in the mid-19th century, investigating how each borrowed from and reacted against the other’s work. Teaching is central to my work. I teach specialized courses and graduate seminars on such topics as American law and narrative (using both legal and literary texts), American ethnic women writers (from mid-19th C to contemporary), marriage and money in American fiction, and a new course called “Jane Eyre’s American Sisters,” studying novels from 1850 to 1980 that respond to and reinvent the strategies and substance of Bronte’s fiction. I also teach survey courses in 19th and 20th century American fiction and American literature more broadly, including poetry and nonfiction.

Selected Publications
  • “Avoiding ‘Aunt Tomasina’: Charles Dickens responds to Black American Reader Mary Webb,” ELH, forthcoming
  • Criminal Conversations: Stories of Adultery and the Law in Late 19th-Century America (Columbia UP, 1998)
  • “Appropriating Law in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred,” Nineteenth-Century Literature (2007)
  • “‘Can your volatile daughter ever acquire your wisdom?’: Luxury and False Ideals in The Coquette,” Early American Literature (2006)
  • “Law and the American Novel,” A Companion to American Fiction 17801865 (2004)
  • “Legal Narratives of Self-Defense and Self-Effacement in Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Studies in American Fiction (2003)
  • “Murder by Madman: Criminal Responsibility, Law, and Judgment in Wieland,” American Literature (2000)
  • “The Scarlet Letter of the Law: Hawthorne and Criminal Justice,” Novel (1997; reprinted in Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter and Other Writings, Norton Critical Edition [2005])
  • “Narrative Battles in the Courtroom,” in Field Work: Sites in Literary and Cultural Studies, ed. Marjorie Garber, Rebecca Walkowitz, Paul Franklin (1996)
  • “The Maintenance of Mutual Confidence: Sentimental Strategies at the Adultery Trial of Henry Ward Beecher,” Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities 7 (1995)
Work in Progress
  • I am working on a book project about Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Dickens.
Honors, Grants, and Awards
  • Fulbright Lecturer, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium (2009)
  • Fellow, Rothermere American Institute, Oxford (2001)
  • Bunting Institute Fellow (1994–95)
  • Fellow, Pembroke Center for Research, Brown University (1993–94)

View all profiles