R. Florence Brinkley Professor of English
Priscilla Wald teaches and works on U.S. literature and culture, particularly literature of the late-18th to mid-20th centuries, contemporary narratives of science and medicine, science fiction literature and film, law and literature, and environmental studies. Her current work focuses on the intersections among the law, literature, science and medicine. Her last book-length study, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, considers the intersection of medicine and myth in the idea of contagion and the evolution of the contemporary stories we tell about the global health problem of "emerging infections.” Wald is also the author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form and co-editor, with Michael Elliott, of volume 6 of the Oxford History of the Novel in English, The American Novel, 1870-1940. She is currently at work on a book-length study entitled Human Being After Genocide. This work chronicles the challenge to conceptions of human being that emerged from scientific and technological innovation in the wake of the Second World War and from the social and political thought of that period, which addressed the geopolitical transformations that followed the war and decolonization movements. Wald is interested in tracking how those debates found expression in what, following several historians, she calls a new mythistory (the term marks the mythic features of a collective history, or creation story). She tracks it through the rise of science fiction as a newly emergent mass genre and then turns to how it inflected the debates around the science and ethics of biotechnology as it became a multi-billion dollar industry. She is interested, in this project, in showing how beliefs and values circulate through mythistories as well as in how, why, and when mythistories become more visible and accessible to change. This project explores the particular importance of science, law, and religion to these stories and works to identify ideas of the sacred that we don’t typically identify as such. Wald is especially interested in analyzing how information emerging from research in the genome sciences circulates through mainstream media and popular culture, thereby shaping a particular understanding of the science that is steeped in (often misleading) cultural biases and assumptions. In her research, her teaching and her professional activities, she is committed to promoting conversations among scholars from science, medicine, law and cultural studies in order to facilitate a richer understanding of how information circulates through language, images, and stories to shape lived experience. Wald's professional service includes: co-editor of American Literature, co-editor, with David Kazanjian and Elizabeth McHenry of the America in the Long Nineteenth Century book series at NYU Press, Chair of the Faculty Board of Duke University Press, member of the Editorial Boards of Penn Studies in Literature and Science and the journal Literature and Medicine, Senior Editor for American Literature, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature, on the Advisory Board of the Centre for Humanities and Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, and co-director, with Sean Goudie, of the First Book Institute. She has served as President of the American Studies Association and on the National Council of that organization as well as on the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association and as the MLA representative to the American Council of Learned Societies. Wald is currently Margaret Taylor Smith Director of the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies and is on the Faculty Governance Committee of Science and Society and the steering committee of IS&S (Information Sciences + Information Studies) at Duke.
- Ph.D., Columbia University 1989
- M.A., Columbia University 1981
- B.A., Yale University 1980
Wald, , and Elliott, M. Oxford History of the Novel in English (American Novel 1870-1940). 2014.
Wald, P. Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative. Duke University Press, 2008.
Wald, P. Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form. Duke UP, 1995.
Wald, P. "Viral cultures: Microbes and politics in the cold war." Zombie Theory: A Reader. January 1, 2017. 33-62.
Wald, P. "Replicant being: Law and strange life in the age of biotechnology." New Directions in Law and Literature. January 1, 2017. 344-358. Full Text
Wald, P. "The Cultural Politics of Blood, 1500-1900." Ed. K Cole, R Bauer, Z Nunes, and C Patterson. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. (Foreword)
Wald, P. "Science and Literature in America." Oxford Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology in America. Ed. H Slotten, S Usselman, and C Clark. 2014. (Chapter)
Wald, P. "Afterword." Contagionism and Contagious Diseases: Medicine and Literature between 1880 and 1933. Ed. T Rutten and M King. De Gruyter, 2013. 225-232.
Wald, P. "Afterword: Global Health and the Persistence of History." Imperial Contagions: Medicine and Cultures of Planning in Asia. Ed. R Peckham and D Pomfret. University of Hong Kong Press, 2013. 215-25. (Afterword)
Wald, P. "Immigrant Literature and the Immigrant Experience." Immigrants in American History: Arrival, Adaptation, and Integration. Ed. E Barkan. ABC-Clio, 2013. 1839-55.
Wald, P. "Christopher Hamlin,More Than Hot: A Short History of Fever." Social History of Medicine 29.3 (August 2016): 663-664. Full Text
Hudson, P, Goldfield, D, Bailey, RL, Hubal, EC, Wald, P, and Stewart, D. "Serials from the Other Side: An Editorial Perspective on Current Trends in Scholarly Communication." Serials Review 39.3 (September 2013): 190-192. Full Text
Hudsona, P, Goldfield, D, Bailey, RL, Hubal, EC, and Wald, P. "Serials from the other side: An editorial perspective on current trends in scholarly communication." Serials Review 39.3 (January 1, 2013): 190-192. Full Text
Wald, P. "Botanophobia: Fear of Plants in the Atomic Age." Japanese Journal of American Studies (2013): 7-27.
Wald, P. "American Studies and the Politics of Life: ASA Presidential Address." American Quarterly 64 (2012): 185-204. (Academic Article)
"Exquisite Fragility: Human Being in the Aftermath of War." (October 12, 2011): 437-453. (Chapter) Full Text
Clayton, J, Davis, LJ, Metzl, JM, Wald, P, and Hausman, BL. "Forum: Conference debates - Biocultures: An emerging paradigm." May 1, 2009. Full Text
Wald, P. "Review of Jonathan Metzal's he Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease." SOCIAL HISTORY OF MEDICINE 24.1 (April 2011): 194-195. (Review) Full Text
Wald, P. "Review of Susan Mizruchi's The Rise of Multicultural America: Economy and Print Culture, 1865-1915." NOVEL-A FORUM ON FICTION 44.3 (2011): 467-470. (Review)
Wald, P. "Review of Cynthia H. Tolentino's America's Experts: Race and the Fictions of Sociology." NOVEL-A FORUM ON FICTION 44.3 (2011): 467-470. (Review)
Wald, P. "Biomedical Ambiguity: Race, Asthma, and the Contested Meaning of Genetic Research in the Caribbean." Social History of Medicine 22.2 (August 1, 2009): 421-422. Full Text
Wald, P. "Review of Heather Munro Prescott's Student Bodies: The Influence of Student Health Services in American Society and Medicine." BULLETIN OF THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE 83.1 (2009): 217-218. (Review)
Wald, P. "Review of Ann L. Ardis and Leslie W. Lewis’ Women’s Experience of Modernity: 1875-1945." MODERNISM/Modernity 12 (2005): 729-31. (Review)
Wald, P. "Review of Laura Otis’ Networking: Communicating with Bodies and Machines in the Nineteenth Century." Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 46 (2003): 452-54. (Review)
Wald, P. "Review of Lawrie Balfour’s The Evidence of Things Not Said: James Baldwin and the Promise of American Democracy." The Review of Politics 63 (2001): 593-95. (Review)
Wald, P. "Review of Nancy Tomes' The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women and the Microbe at the Turn of the Century." MODERNISM-MODERNITY 7.2 (2000): 338-340. (Review)