The RAI has a long history of enriching the study of American literature through its seminars and symposia. The Esmond Harmsworth Lecture in American Arts and Letters is the centrepiece of the university’s American literary calendar and has been given by some of America’s most eminent writers, including Richard Ford, Joyce Carol Oates, C.K. Williams, Tobias Wolff, Marilynne Robinson, Jennifer Egan, and Lydia Davis.
In 2015-6, the Institute began RAI|Live, a public-facing series that brings authors, academics and readers into conversation. The first speakers were the James Tait Black Winner Benjamin Markovits, the Costa Prize Winner Andrea Wulf, and Mark Greif, editor of n+1 magazine.
The RAI also hosts research seminars, classes, and conferences in American Literature and is home to a thriving community of graduate students. The regular American Literature Research Seminar (ALRS) brings scholars and critics from across the world to the RAI to present groundbreaking and influential work.
The 2016-17 graduate convenors are James Cetkovski and Nanette O'Brien. The 2016-7 faculty convenors are Michèle Mendelssohn and Lloyd Pratt. Recent ALRS speakers include Emily Coit (Bristol), Anna Despotopoulou (Athens), Jonathan Elmer (Indiana), Fiona Green (Cambridge), Thomas Karshan (University of East Anglia), Sarah Rivett (Princeton), Shirley Samuels (Cornell), Elisa Tamarkin (Berkeley), Bryan Wagner (Berkeley), and Cindy Weinstein (CalTech).
Faculty and researchers
The Drue Heinz Professorship of American Literature is held by Lloyd Pratt, a Fellow of St John's College who specialises in American and African American literature from 1800 to the present. Other English Faculty members with research interests in American Literature include:
- Dr Sally Bayley, College Tutor and Lecturer at St Hugh's College, specialising in Sylvia Plath, the study of domestic space, and diary writing.
- Dr Rebecca Beasley, Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow at The Queen’s College, whose research interests include Anglo-American modernist poetry, especially in relation to the visual arts.
- Dr Matthew Bevis, Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow at Keble College, interested particularly in American poetry and poetics — from Dickinson and Whitman to Frost, Stevens, Jarrell, Bishop, Ashbery and others.
- Professor Christine Gerrard, Professor of English Literature and Tutorial Fellow at Lady Margaret Hall. Her teaching interests include eighteenth and nineteenth century Transatlantic Literature, and American poetry of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
- Dr Patrick Hayes, Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow at St John’s College, working on Philip Roth, and the nature and value of literature in the modern period.
- Professor Hermione Lee, President of Wolfson College, who has research interests in Edith Wharton and Willa Cather, and, more generally, late 19th to 21st century American fiction.
- Dr Erica McAlpine, Robin Geffen Career Development Fellow in English at Keble College, specialising in 19th to 21st century Poetry, Romanticism and American Literature.
- Professor Kate McLoughlin, Tutorial Fellow at Harris Manchester College, who has research interests in 19th- to 21st-century American literature, particularly war writing, modernism and Jewish American literature.
- Professor Laura Marcus, FBA, Goldsmith’s Professor of English Literature and Fellow of New College, whose work focuses on 19th and 20th century literature and culture, including life-writing, modernism, and Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury culture.
- Dr Michèle Mendelssohn, Associate Professor and Fellow of Mansfield College, who specialises in 19th and early 20th century British and American literature, and in transatlantic studies.
- Dr Tessa Roynon, Teaching and Research Fellow at the RAI, specialising in African-American Literature and modern American fiction.
- Dr Tara Stubbs, Associate Professor and Director of Studies in English Literature and Creative Writing at Kellogg College, whose research focuses on American literature and Irish culture.
Conferences, seminars and events
Recent conferences and book events at the RAI have covered writers and topics including:
- ‘Alain Locke in the 21st Century’, an international conference which featured lectures from Kenneth Warren (Chicago), Jacqueline Goldsby (Yale), Paul Gilroy (KCL), Sarah Meer (Cambridge).
- A five-day interdisciplinary masterclass on Sylvia Plath, with a special focus on her manuscripts and landscape poems.
- The conference of the Emily Dickinson International Society.
- A one-day symposium on ‘American Work’, with a keynote from Kasia Boddy (Cambridge) and postgraduate and early career faculty speakers from across the UK.
- An ‘Enchanted Critique’ round table, including lectures from Nancy Bentley (Pennsylvania), Elizabeth Dillon (Northeastern), and Emily Ogden (Virginia).