Richard Brodhead

Richard Brodhead

William Preston Few Professor of English

External Address: 
207 Allen Bldg, Durham, NC 27710
Internal Office Address: 
Box 90001, Durham, NC 27708-0001
(919) 684-2424

Like many students of my generation, I had little formal training in American literature, so it was a minor act of personal rebellion in 1970 when I decided, in the middle of my graduate studies, to become an Americanist. It seemed a wonderfully young field, unencumbered by tradition, with little past at its back. My first attraction (or obsession) involved specific authors, notably Hawthorne and Whitman.

Beginning my career as a professor in 1972, I found increasingly that the form of study I had been taught -- comparing one text to another within the literary plane -- seemed insufficient. Other scholars and I began working in a more socially-oriented fashion, looking at the historical context that produced the texts we study while also seeking out the then-absent voices of women, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and others.

One of the great joys of my subsequent career is the work I have done on Charles W. Chesnutt, a short-story writer and one of the great commentators on racial issues of the early 20th Century. This interest also ties me to North Carolina: Chesnutt grew up in Fayetteville, not too far from Duke, and the two books of his work that I edited were published by Duke University Press.

I now frequently teach about writers from outside the traditional canon along with their better-known contemporaries: for instance, Chesnutt and Louisa May Alcott with Mark Twain; Frederick Douglass and Fanny Fern with Herman Melville. This approach enriches the terms on which every author is understood. My further work on the social operation of literary genres, and the social shaping of literary self-conceptions, has depended on the same conviction that it is worth returning history to literary study, and that history itself gives value to the quest. At the same time, it is not true that texts are nothing but emanations of the historical structures or social issues that currently interest us; there is no excuse for sacrificing close reading or an awareness of the constituents of literary quality to a social agenda.


  • Ph.D., Yale University 1972
  • M.Phil., Yale University 1970
  • B.A., Yale University 1968

Brodhead, RH. The Good of This Place. Yale University Press, 2004.

Brodhead, R, Andrews WL, , Farr J, , Edel L, , Reynolds MT, , Rawson CJ, , Freedman J, , Buell L, , Rose M, , Wofford S, , Young D, , and Homans M, . New Century Views. 1998. (Edited Book)

Brodhead, R. The Journals of Charles W. Chesnutt. 1993. (Edited Book)

Chesnutt, and Charles W., . The Conjure Woman and Other Conjure Tales. Ed. R Brodhead. Duke University Press, 1993. (Edited Book)

Hawthorne, and Nathaniel, . The Marble Faun. Ed. richard brodhead. Penguin Books, 1990. (Edited Book)

Brodhead, RH. The School of Hawthorne. Oxford University Press, 1989.

Brodhead, R. New Essays on Melville's Moby-Dick. Cambridge University Press, 1986. (Edited Book)

Brodhead, R. William Faulkner: New Perspectives. Prentice-Hall, 1983. (Edited Book)

Brodhead, R. Hawthorne, Melville, and the Novel. University of Chicago Press, 1976.

Hadjiiski, LM, and Tourassi, GD. "Introduction." January 1, 2015. xxiii-xxv. Full Text

Brodhead, RH. "Prophets in America circa 1830: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nat Turner, Joseph Smith." Joseph Smith, Jr.: Reappraisals After Two Centuries. January 1, 2009. Full Text

Brodhead, RH. "Taking democracy to school." Democratic Vistas. December 1, 2004. 99-114.

Brodhead, R. "Millennium, Prophecy and the Energies of Social Transformation: The Case of Nat Turner." Imagining the End: Millennial Faith from the Ancient Middle East to the Present. 2002.

Brodhead, R. "“Melville, or Aggression.”." The Ever-Moving Dawn: Melville Centenary Essays. Ed. John Bryant and Robert Midler. Kent State University Press, 1997. (Chapter)

Brodhead, R. ""Cultures of Criticism: Private Confessions of a Historicist Critic,"." REAL: Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature. 1995. (Chapter)

Brodhead, R. ""Regionalism and the Upper Class."." Rethinking Class: Literary Studies and Social Formations. 1994.

Brodhead, R. "Veiled Ladies: Toward a History of Antebellum Entertainment." American Literary History. Ed. Gordon Hutner. Oxford University Press, 1989.

Brodhead, R. "Sparing the Rod: Discipline and Fiction in Antebellum America." Representations. University of California Press, 1988. (Chapter)


Brodhead, RH, and Wyman, RJ. "Innovation and inspiration in education." Science 294.5542 (October 19, 2001): 519-520. (Letter)

Brodhead, RH, Wyman, RJ, Jungck, JR, Heppner, F, and Fraknoi, A. "Thank you, science, for focusing [1]." Science 294.5542 (October 19, 2001): 519-. (Letter)



Brodhead, RH. "Veiled ladies: Toward a history of antebellum entertainment." American Literary History 1.2 (June 1, 1989): 273-294. Full Text

Brodhead, RH. "Sparing the Rod: Discipline and Fiction in Antebellum America." Representations 21 (January 1, 1988): 67-96. Full Text