Michael F D'Alessandro

Michael F D'Alessandro

Assistant Professor of English

External Address: 
502 Allen Building, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Box 90015, Durham, NC 27708
Office Hours: 

Mondays 3:00-5:00 p.m.

Michael D’Alessandro holds an M.F.A. in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from Yale University and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Boston University. His principal research focuses on American literature and theatre history in the long nineteenth century. Whether studying well-known works of the literary canon or long-forgotten theatrical melodramas, D’Alessandro highlights the significance of social class within nineteenth-century reception. He also teaches twentieth- and twenty-first century American literature, film, and performance history, and his published work focuses on authors such as Frank Norris and William Faulkner. His articles have appeared in J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, The New England Quarterly, Mississippi Quarterly, The Eugene O’Neill Review, and Studies in American Naturalism.

Before arriving at Duke, D’Alessandro served as Lecturer and Assistant Director of Studies in Harvard’s History and Literature Program. At Harvard, Yale, and BU, he designed and taught several seminars, including “American Romantic Fiction and the Occult,” “Utopias and Dystopias in American Literature,” “The City in Modern American Drama,” and “Melodramatic Theatre and Early Silent Film.” 

Currently, he is working on a book project entitled Staged Readings: Sensationalism and Class in Popular American Literature and Theatre, 1835-1875. Examining the overlaps between print and popular theatre, Staged Readings analyzes how working- and middle-class citizens shifted between roles as literary consumers and theatrical spectators in nineteenth-century America. The study reads works of popular fiction (George Lippard’s The Quaker City, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Louisa May Alcott’s Behind a Mask; or A Woman’s Power) against best-selling theatrical melodramas (The Drunkard; Undine, or, the Spirit of the Waters). With special attention to archival documents—including playbills, diary entries, parlor theatre manuals, etchings of tableaux vivants—the project seeks to expand the history of class-driven consumer culture. 


  • Ph.D., Boston University 2014
  • M.F.A., Yale University 2006
  • B.A., Hamilton College 2002

D’Alessandro, M. F. “"George Lippard's 'Theatre of Hell': Apocalyptic Melodrama and Working-Class Spectatorship in the Quaker City.".” The Journal of Nineteenth Century Americanists, vol. 5, no. 2, 2017.

D’Alessandro, Michael. “The Drunkard's Directions: Mapping Urban Space in the Antebellum Temperance Drama.” The New England Quarterly, vol. 87, no. 2, MIT Press - Journals, June 2014, pp. 252–91. Crossref, doi:10.1162/tneq_a_00369. Full Text

D’Alessandro, Michael. “The Mouth Trap: Orality and the Rabelaisian Grotesque in Norris’s McTeague.” Studies in American Naturalism, vol. 9, no. 1, Project Muse, 2014, pp. 1–25. Crossref, doi:10.1353/san.2014.0001. Full Text

D’Alessandro, M. F. “Childless 'Fathers,' Native Sons: Performing the Indian in Faulkner's Go Down, Moses.” Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 67, no. 3, College of Arts and Sciences of Mississippi State University, 2014, pp. 375–375.

D’Alessandro, M. F. “Shifting Perceptions, Precarious Perspectives in Two of O'Neill's Early Sea Plays.” The Eugene O’Neill Review, vol. 27, 2007, pp. 21–21.


Selected Grants

Staged Readings awarded by Massachusetts Historical Society (Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2020

Plagues, Players, Playhouses awarded by Library Company (Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2020