Priscilla Wald

R. Florence Brinkley Professor of English

External Address: 
327B Allen Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Box 90015, Durham, NC 27708-0015
(919) 684-6869

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, and environmental studies. Her current work focuses on the intersections among the law, literature, science and medicine. Her recent 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." 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. The trajectory of the book moves from these challenges through the rise of science fiction and the theory of "biopolitics" to the mapping of the human genome and its consequences. She is especially interested in analyzing how information emerging from research in the genome sciences circulates through mainstream media and popular culture and how the language, narratives and images in those media register and promote a particular understanding of the science that is steeped in (often misleading) cultural biases and assumptions. Recently, having co-edited, with Michael Elliott, volume 6 of the Oxford History of the Novel in English, The American Novel, 1870-1940, Wald is also working on several essays on American literature and culture for essay collections. 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 these issues. Wald is the author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form. She is also editor of American Literature as well as on the Editorial Board of Literature and Medicine, co-editor of a book series on nineteenth-century American Literature at NYU Press, Chair of the Faculty Board of Duke University Press and on the Advisory Board of the Centre for Humanities and Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. She has served on the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association and is currently the MLA representative to the American Council of Learned Societies; she recently completed a term as President of the American Studies Association. She has a secondary appointment in Women's Studies, is on the steering committee of ISIS (Information Sciences + Information Studies) and is a member of the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and an affiliate of the Trent Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities and the Institute for Global Health.


  • Ph.D., Columbia University 1989
  • M.A., Columbia University 1981
  • B.A., Yale University 1980

Wald, P. "“Science Fiction: Stories of Warning and Wonder,”." In Cambridge History of the American Novel,edited by L Cassuto, C Eby, and B Reiss, 832-46. 2011.

Wald, P. "Atomic Faulkner." In Faulkner’s Inheritance,edited by J Urgo. University of Mississippi Press, 2007.

Wald, P. "Naturalization." In Keywords of American Cultural Studies,edited by B Burgett and G Hendler. NYU Press, 2007.

Wald, P. "“Geonomics: the Spaces and Races of Citizenship in the Genome Age”." In America–From Near and Far: Varieties of American Experience,edited by ML Raphael and C Wilhelm. Department of Religion, William and Mary College, 2007.

Wald, P. "“Dreiser’s Sociological Vision”." In The Cambridge Companion to Theodore Dreiser,edited by L Cassuto and CV Eby. Cambridge UP, 2004.

Wald, P. "Hannah crafts." In In Search of Hannah Crafts: Critical Essays on the Bondwoman’s Narrative,edited by J Henry Louis Gates and H Robbins. Basic Books, 2004.

Wald, P. "Of crucibles and grandfathers: The East European immigrants." In The Cambridge Companion to Jewish American Literature, 50-69. January 1, 2003. Full Text

Wald, P. "Introduction to Paula Treichler’s AIDS, Homophobia, and Biomedical Discourse: An Epidemic of Signification." In American Literary Studies: A Methodological Reader,edited by MAE P Wald and C Stokes, 182-84. New York: New York UP, 2003.

Wald, P. "The East European Immigrants: Of Crucibles and Grandfathers." In The Cambridge Companion to Jewish American Literature,edited by M Kramer and HW Nesher. Cambridge UP, 2003.

Wald, P. "Hannah crafts." In Critical Essays on Hannah Crafts’ The Bondwoman’s Narrative,edited by J Henry Louis Gates and H Robbins. Basic Books, 2003.


Wald, P. "Science fiction." (January 1, 2011): 832-846. (Chapter) Full Text

Wald, P. "Introduction to Science Fiction." Edited by G Canavan. American Literature 83, no. 2 (2011): 237-249. (Introduction)

Wald, P. ""Science Fiction and Medical Ethics"." The Lancet 371 (June 2009): 9629-9629. (Academic Article)

Rusert, B, and Wald, P. "American Literature: Introduction." American Literature 81, no. 1 (April 27, 2009): 1-6. Full Text

Rusert, B, and Wald, P. "Introduction, Technologies of Enslavement and Liberty." Edited by P Wald and B Rusert. American Literature 81 (March 2009).

Wald, P. ""The Intimacies of Strangers"." emisférica 6 (2009).

Wald, P. "Cognitive estrangement, science fiction, and medical ethics." Lancet (London, England) 371, no. 9628 (June 2008): 1908-1909. Full Text

Wald, P, and Clayton, J. "Editors' preface: Genomics in literature, visual arts, and culture." LITERATURE AND MEDICINE 26, no. 1 (2007): VI-XVI.

Wald, P. "Blood and stories: how genomics is rewriting race, medicine and human history." PATTERNS OF PREJUDICE 40, no. 4-5 (2006): 303-333. Full Text


Stefano, CD, and Weisenfeld, J. "Institutions, Regulations and Social Control." special issue of Signs (1999).

Wald, P. "Review of Walter Benn Michaels’ Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism." Modern Language Quarterly 59 (March 1998): 124-29.

Wald, P. "Review of Genevieve Fabre and Robert O'Meally's History and Memory in African-American Culture." American Literature 68 (March 1996): 269-71. (Review)

Wald, P. "Review of Lee Quinby’s Anti-Apocalypse: Exercises in Genealogical Criticism." American Literature 67 (June 1995): 421-22. (Review)

Wald, P. "Review of Mark Twain’s Pudd’n’head Wilson: Race, Conflict, and Culture." Studies in American Fiction 23 (1995): 254-56. (Review)