Robert S. Levine
Fellow: Awarded 2012
Field of Study: American Literature
Competition: US & Canada
From the late 1970s to the present, I have been passionate about doing interdisciplinary cultural and historical work on nineteenth-century American literature. There have been broad consistencies in my career, and re-energizing shifts and surprises, particularly the move that I made in the early 1990s into African American literary studies, while retaining my interests in Melville, Hawthorne, and other key nineteenth-century writers. My current book project on Frederick Douglass, “The Lives of Frederick Douglass,” which aspires to offer a cultural history of how Douglass’s life has been conceived over the past 170 years, draws on a longstanding fascination with Douglass. My first Douglass essay appeared in 1991; my first book with a focus on Douglass appeared in 1997; and my most recent essays and books with a Douglass focus were published between 2008 and 2010. As part of my interest in making more of Douglass’s writings available to 21st-century readers, I added new texts to the Douglass section in The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 1820–1865, which I edit, and I have recently joined the team working on the Douglass Papers and, with John Stauffer, will be coediting two volumes for Yale University Press’s Frederick Douglass Papers, including a classroom edition of Douglass’s novella, “The Heroic Slave.”
I am Professor of English and Distinguished-Scholar Teacher at the University of Maryland, College Park. My books include Conspiracy and Romance: Studies in Brockden Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne, and Melville (1989), Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, and the Politics of Representative Identity (1997), and Dislocating Race and Nation: Episodes in Nineteenth-Century American Literary Nationalism (2008). I also very much enjoy editing essay collections and books, and have a particular interest in making lesser-known authors and texts available to wider audiences. Recent editions include Hemispheric American Studies (2008), coedited with Caroline Levander; Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville: Essays in Relation (2008), coedited with Samuel Otter; a Bedford Cultural Edition of William Wells Brown’s Clotel (2nd edition, 2011); and The Works of James M. Whitfield: “America” and Other Writings by a Nineteenth-Century African American Poet (2011), coedited with Ivy Wilson. I serve on the editorial boards of American Literary History; Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies; ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance; Authorship; The Frederick Douglass Papers; and The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review; and I was recently named the new General Editor of the five-volume The Norton Anthology of American Literature.