Featured Graduate Student

Emily Gowen

Current Fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia

Albert M. Greenfield Foundation Dissertation Fellow

A current PhD student in Boston University’s department of English and the 2021 Albert M. Greenfield Dissertation Fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Emily has also held fellowships at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and the American Antiquarian Society. Her research and teaching focus on the relationship between the rise of the novel, the history of print, and the problem of social inequality in the nineteenth-century United States.

My dissertation takes a new approach to understanding the relationship between the rise of mass print, the trans-Atlantic history of the novel, and the problem of social inequality in the United States. By tracing the circulation and reception histories of European “steady sellers”—works like Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Richardson’s Pamela, and Cervantes’s Don Quixote—in the antebellum United States, I demonstrate that the mechanisms of mass-market dissemination changed the meaning of these works in diverse and unpredictable ways and in turn opened them up for reinterpretation by those reading from the margins of American society. This destabilization of steady sellers also had ramifications for American literary production, as authors like Herman Melville, Susan Warner, Harriet Jacobs, and Mark Twain invoked them at once to imagine their work into existing traditions and to question the cultural authority of their literary forerunners.

Learn more about Emily and register for her Fireside Chat on “Steady Sellers and the Problem of Inequality in 19th Century America”

Hear her interview with the Boston University Center for the Humanities here