Nicholas T Rinehart


2017. American Literature in the World: An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler. Edited by Wai Chee Dimock, with Jordan Brower, Edgar Garcia, Kyle Hutzler, and *Nicholas Rinehart. New York: Columbia UP. [website] [description]

American Literature in the World is an innovative anthology offering a new way to understand the global forces that have shaped the making of American literature. The wide-ranging selections are structured around five interconnected nodes: war; food; work, play, and travel; religions; and human and nonhuman interfaces. Through these five categories, Wai Chee Dimock and a team of emerging scholars reveal American literature to be a complex network, informed by crosscurrents both macro and micro, with local practices intensified by international concerns. Selections include poetry from Anne Bradstreet to Jorie Graham; the fiction of Herman Melville, Gertrude Stein, and William Faulkner; Benjamin Franklin's parables; Frederick Douglass's correspondence; Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders; Langston Hughes's journalism; and excerpts from The Autobiography of Malcom X as well as Octavia Butler's Dawn. Popular genres such as the crime novels of Raymond Chandler, the comics of Art Spiegelman, the science fiction of Philip K. Dick, and recipes from Alice B. Toklas are all featured. More recent authors include Junot Diaz, Leslie Marmon Silko, Jonathan Safran Foer, Edwidge Danticat, Gary Shteyngart, and Jhumpa Lahiri. These selections speak to readers at all levels and invite them to try out fresh groupings and remap American literature. A continually updated interactive component at complements the anthology.


2018. "Sandoval Redux," ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America 17(2), forthcoming.

2018. "Native Sons; or, How 'Bigger' Was Born Again," Journal of American Studies. 52(1): forthcoming. [pdf] [abstract]

The paper looks anew at Richard Wright's Native Son (1940) by comparing textual divergences between the published novel and an earlier typeset manuscript with Wright’s handwritten revisions from roughly 1939. It argues that the author’s revisions render protagonist Bigger Thomas an icon of global class conflict rather than a national figure of racial tension. By revealing the significant thematic continuities among three theoretical essays that bookend the writing of Native Son, the paper shows how the novel’s restructuring contributed to Wright's ongoing elaboration of a globalist class consciousness, highlighting his desire to produce work that transcended both national and racial categories. Finally, it considers Native Son as a work of “world literature.” By examining “translations” of the novel into various postcolonial or Third World contexts, it argues that the global afterlife of Native Son is not a departure from the localized vision of the novel, but rather the recapitulation of its explicit globalism. The article thereby challenges critical convention dividing Wright's career cleanly into two phases: his American works, and the travel writings of his later self-exile. It emphasizes on the contrary that Wright's worldliness should be traced back through his revision of Native Son and earlier critical essays—ultimately finding his globalist class-consciousness not a late-stage development, but rather a single theme that unifies his entire oeuvre.

2016. "The Man That Was a Thing: Reconsidering Human Commodification in Slavery," Journal of Social History: Societies and Cultures 50(1): 28-50. [pdf] [abstract]

This essay examines a longstanding normative assumption in the historiography of slavery in the Atlantic world: that enslaved Africans and their American-born descendants were bought and sold as “commodities,” thereby “dehumanizing” them and treating them as things rather than as persons. Such claims have, indeed, helped historians conceptualize how New World slavery contributed to the ongoing development of global finance capitalism—namely, that slaves represented capital as well as labor. But the recurring paradigm of the “dehumanized” or “commodified” slave, I argue, obscures more than it reveals. My article suggests that historians of slavery must reconsider the “commodification” of enslaved humanity. In so doing, it offers three interrelated arguments: first, that scholarship on slavery has not adequately or coherently defined the precise mechanisms by which enslaved people were supposedly “commodified”; second, that the normative position implied by the insistence that persons were treated as things further mystifies or clouds our collective historical vision of enslavement; and third, that we should abandon a strictly Marxian conception of the commodity—and its close relation to notions of “social death"—in favor of Igor Kopytoff’s theory of the commodity-as-process. It puts forth in closing a reconstituted conceptualization of the slave relation wherein enslaved people are understood as thoroughly human.

2016. "'I Talk More of the French: Creole Folklore and the Federal Writers' Project," Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters 39(2): 439-56. [pdf] [abstract]

This essay tackles a question that has preoccupied Francophone postcolonial studies for several decades—namely, what is believed almost unanimously to be the absence of a Francophone equivalent to the slave narrative in English. My article challenges this assumption by reconciling the legacies of slavery in both the Anglophone and Francophone “arenas” to examine their overlap in the French Creole culture of Louisiana. It focuses on the “other” slave narratives—the ex-slave interviews collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, specifically those from Louisiana, as well as Texas and Arkansas, that were translated from French or Creole, include French or Creole words or passages, or recount the history of French slavery in the United States. These previously unacknowledged texts reveal how the histories of American and French colonial slaveries converged to produce an “unwritten” Francophone slave narrative tradition.

   2015. "On Élie and Eric," Transition: The Magazine of Africa and the Diaspora (117): 13. [pdf] [abstract]

A contribution to Transition's “I Can't Breathe” forum, an online space for responses to the murders of unarmed black Americans by police. My piece, which was chosen for publication in the print edition of the magazine, reflected upon the similarities between the death of Eric Garner in New York City and the death of an enslaved sugar refiner named Élie on the Montagne plantation in nineteenth-century Martinique.

   2013. "Black Beethoven and the Racial Politics of Music History," Transition: An International Review (112): 117-30. [pdf] [abstract]

This article assesses the longstanding myths and debates surrounding the supposed African ancestry of German Romantic composer Ludwig van Beethoven. I argue that the “blackwashing” of Beethoven against all historical likelihood is a failed attempt at historical revisionism—while endeavoring to claim Beethoven's genius as a testament to black accomplishment, this recycled and unfounded factoid has had the adverse effect of obscuring the careers and contributions of actual black composers (e.g. Joseph Boulogne de Saint-Georges, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, William Grant Still). Moreover, this tendency to cast Beethoven as African is mirrored by frequent attempts to “whitewash” the reputations of African-descended composers by referring to them by the names of their white contemporaries (e.g. Black Mozart, Black Mahler). I thus conclude that the classical music canon must be reimagined with race at its center.


2018. "Richard Wright's Globalism," The Cambridge Companion to Richard Wright. Ed. Glenda Carpio. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, forthcoming.


   ----. "Writing, Speaking, and Embodied Consciousness in The Marrow of Tradition," MELUS (accepted). [abstract]

Charles Chesnutt’s Marrow of Tradition (1901) is overwhelmingly understood as an historical novel. Critics have again and again focused on its journalistic historicity; its ambivalent racial politics; its attitudes towards assimilation, separatism, vengeance, and resistance; and Chesnutt’s alleged biographical identification with various characters. This generalized preoccupation with the explicitly political or historical contours of the novel frequently precludes closer scrutiny of Chesnutt’s formal literary strategies. This paper shirks that tendency by considering The Marrow of Tradition not just as an historical novel, but also as a novel of consciousness. Viewing the novel from the perspective of its representation of consciousness both reframes its historiographical bearing and opens up new ways to understand Chesnutt’s fiction and nineteenth-century African American literature more broadly. It argues that the location of black consciousness in the novel is the soliloquy, and demonstrates that the soliloquy should be understood as a form of “embodied consciousness”: a narrative mode endowed with the expressivity of theatrical gesture. It further examines these performative gestures in relation to additional patterns in the novel: first, the destructive circulation of written, material texts; and second, recurring images of corporeality and physical breakdown wherein one’s capacity for speech is endangered. As they are invulnerable to such formal compromise and breakdown, Chesnutt’s soliloquies together produce a counter-archive of vernacular memory and reveal how dramatic form functions in the novel more broadly.


----. "David Dabydeen." Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography. Eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Franklin W. Knight. Oxford UP (under contract). [online edition]

----. "Edgar Austin Mittelhölzer." Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography. Eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Franklin W. Knight. Oxford UP (under contract). [online edition]


----. "Nabokov's Interracial Imagination"
----. "Race, Incest, and Plot-Metonymy in Nabokov's Ada; or, Can Caterpillars Have Interracial Sex?"
----. "'These Illegitimate Children of My Thought': The Dramatic Work and Criticism of W.E.B. Du Bois"



2018. "Fugitive Mysticism: Spiritual Testimony in the Afro-Iberian Atlantic," Slave Subjectivities in the Iberian World, Lisbon, Portugal, July 2-4.

2018. "'The Most Enthusiastic Antiquarian': Enslaved Testimony and New Negro Recovery," Biennial C19 Conference, Albuquerque, NM, March 22-25.

2018. "Genre as Event, Event as Genre," ACLA Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA, March 29-April 1.

2018. "'Wild Speech' in the Archives of Slavery," Annual MLA Convention, New York, NY, January 6.

previous presentations

2017. "Between Timely and Timeless; or, Emily Dickinson and the Civil War Poet She Never Became," Annual ALA Conference, Boston, MA, May 27.

2017. "'My Complaint Book': Enslaved Testimony and Legal Inquest in British Guiana, 1819-1832," Biennial SEA Conference, Tulsa, OK, March 3.

2017. "Richard Wright's Globalism: Before and Beyond Bandung," Annual MLA Convention, Philadelphia, PA, January 6.

2016. "Theatrical Space in the Novel; or, Chesnutt's Narrative Stage," New Work in Novel Studies Symposium, Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University, December 7.

2016. "The Contemporary Novel of Slavery in the Shadow of Toni Morrison," International Conference on Narrative, Amsterdam, NH, June 17.

2016. "Jerry and Hamlet, Chesnutt and Shakespeare," Annual ACLA Meeting, Cambridge, MA, March 19.

2016. "Native Sons: Richard Wright and Genetic Criticism," Annual NeMLA Conference, Hartford, CT, March 18.

2016. "Toussaint Louverture, Frederick Douglass, and Enslaved Testimony in the French Atlantic," Biennial C19 Conference, State College, PA, March 17.

2016. "William Dunbar, Beast Fables, and Premodern Black-ness," Annual ACMRS Conference, Tempe, AZ, February 6.

2015. "'Far-Flung Kinships': The Global Richard Wright," Tufts Graduate Humanities Conference, October 16.

2015. "Thackeray's Sambo and Transatlantic Blackface," NAVSA Annual Conference, Honolulu, HI, July 11.

2015. "'He died with all his words in his heart': Legal Inquest and Enslaved Testimony in Martinique, 1847," The Futures of American Studies Institute, Dartmouth College, June 22-28.

2015. "'And render Hell/More Tolerable': Slaves' Internal Economies and the Limits of Resistance," OIEAHC-SEA Joint Conference, Chicago, IL, June 19.

2015. "Talking Book: Chesnutt's Soliloquies and the Melodrama of Race Conflict," ALA Annual Conference, Boston, MA, May 22.

2015. "The Rhetoric of Diaspora: Diaz, Cole, Mengestu," Annual NeMLA Conference, Toronto, Canada, May 2.

2015. "Enslaved Testimony and Religious Institutions in Colonial Latin America," Locating and Connecting Latin America and the African Diaspora, UNC-Charlotte, April 30.

2015. "Pushkin, Nabokov, and Intertextual Interracialism," American Literature Colloquium, Harvard University, April 16.

2015. "Nabokov and African American History," Annual AATSEEL Conference, Vancouver, Canada, January 10.

2014. "Close Reading 'Unwritten Literature': The Slave Narratives of the Federal Writers' Project," Harvard Graduate Symposium, November 21.

2014. "Melville's Prophecy: War, Emancipation, and 'Bartleby,'" Annual PAMLA Conference, Riverside, CA, November 2.

2014. "Enslaved Testimony in the Publications of Victor Schoelcher," Annual RMMLA Convention, Boise, Idaho, October 11.

2014. "Creole Folklore, the Federal Writers' Project, and the Quest for the Francophone Equiano," American Literature in the World Conference, Yale University, April 11.

2014. "Ellison and Russian Authors," Annual MELUS Conference/Ralph Ellison Centennial Symposium, Oklahoma City University, March 8.



scheduled PANELS

2018. "The Return of Generic Criticism," ACLA Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA, March 29-April 1.

Nicholas Rinehart (Harvard University), "Genre as Event, Event as Genre"
Ruth Martin Curry (Northwestern University), "Bakhtin, Socratic Dialogue, and the Genre Wars"
Lara Cahill-Booth (University of Miami), "The Rise of Macunaima: Hero Takes on the Novel in Pauline Melville’s The Ventriloquist’s Tale"
Mike Phillips (CUNY Graduate Center), "Echo-Criticism: Bakhtin, Kurosawa, and Generic Materialism"
Elias G. Saba (Grinnell College), "Games of Law: Islamic Legal Genres in the 14th Century"
Mengjun Li (University of Southern California), "The Formularized Body: Male Anxieties and Genre Fiction in Early Modern China"
Todd Nordgren (Northwestern University), "'The Social Life of Forms': Queer Genres and Genre's Queer Possibilities"
Anne Stevens (University of Nevada) and Molly O'Donnell (James Madison University), "The Microgenre in Theory and Practice"

2018. "The Work of the Anthology in American Literature," Annual MLA Convention, New York, NY, January 4-7.

Nicholas Rinehart (Harvard University), presiding
Shelley Fisher Fishkin (Stanford University)
Sandra Gustafson (University of Notre Dame)
Patrick Jagoda (University of Chicago)
Carla Kaplan (Northeastern University)
Tavia Nyong'o (Yale University)
Wai Chee Dimock (Yale University), responding

previous PANELS

2017. "Afro-Asian Americana: Food, Fiction, Film," Annual MLA Convention, Philadelphia, PA, January 5-8.

        J. Ryan Marks (Penn State University), presiding
        Tao Leigh Goffe (New York University): "What’s Eating Pearl Chang?: Chop Suey and Afro­-Asian Revolutionary Romance"
        Nicholas Rinehart (Harvard University): "Richard Wright's Globalism: Before and Beyond Bandung"
        Kinohi Nishikawa (Princeton University): "The Outsiders: Black Sun and Incommensurability"
        Aldon Lynn Nielsen (Penn State University), responding

2016. "Unsettling the Slave Narrative," Biennial C19 Conference, State College, PA, March 17-20.

         Nicholas Rinehart (Harvard University): "Toussaint Louverture, Frederick Douglass, and Enslaved Testimony in the
         French Atlantic"
         Nele Sawallisch (Johannes Gutenberg University): "The Unsettling Canadian Slave Narratives"
         Michaël Roy (Université Paris 13): "Unsettling the Slave Narrative through Book History"
         Bryan Sinche (University of Hartford): "Robert B. Anderson and the Walking Book"

2015. "Legal History and Slave Resistance," OIEAHC-SEA Joint Conference, Chicago, IL, June 18-21.

         Nicholas Rinehart (Harvard University): "'And render Hell/More Tolerable': Slaves' Internal Economies and the Limits of
         Kelly A. Ryan (Indiana University Southeast): "'I Won't Stand This': New York Slaves' Resistance to Violence"
         Randy M. Browne (Xavier University): "Property Rights, Slaves' Legal Activism, and the Struggle to Survive in the British
         Trevor Burnard (University of Melbourne), discussant

2015. "World Literature/Immigrant Literature," Annual NeMLA Convention, Toronto, Canada, April 30-May 3.

Nicholas Rinehart (Harvard University): "The Rhetoric of Diaspora: Diaz, Cole, Mengestu"
Emily Anderson (SUNY-Buffalo): "Occupying the ‘Little House’: Contemporary Immigrant Appropriations of Laura Ingalls Wilder"
Gabriel Page (Berkeley): "Post-Immigrant Fiction and the State of the Nation"
Elizabeth Janssen (UWashington): "‘Hear What Is Being Said’: Self-Reflexivity in Contemporary African Immigrant Literature"

2014. "Black and White and Red All Over: Literary Allegiances and Lineages between African America and Russia," Annual MELUS Conference/Ralph Ellison Centennial Symposium, Oklahoma City University, March 6-9.

Nicholas Rinehart (Harvard College): "Ralph Ellison and Russian Authors"
Raquel Greene (Grinnell College): "In to Africa: The Soviet Union and its Civilizing Mission in the 1920s"
John MacKay (Yale University): "True Songs of Freedom: Uncle Tom's Cabin in the Soviet 1920s"

Featured Images: “Richard Wright” (1946) by Carl Van Vechten, courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University [original photograph in color]; “Anderson and Minerva Edwards, Age 93 and 87” (1936-38) from the Federal Writers’ Project ex-slave collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress; cover image from Golden Legacy: Illustrated History Series, “Volume 14: The Life of Alexander Pushkin” (1972), courtesy of Fitzgerald Publishing Co. Inc. [original in color]