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

Curzan, A, and Wald, P. "Americanization." In Encyclopedia of American Studies. Grolier, 2001.

Wald, P. "Immigration and Assimilation in Nineteenth-Century US Women’s Narratives." In The Cambridge Companion to 19th-Century American Women’s Writing,edited by D Bauer and P Gould, 176-199. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001.

Wald, P. "Emma Goldman." In American Women Prose Writers 1870-1920: Dictionary of Literary Biography,edited by S Harris, HL Jacobs, and J Putzi. Detroit: Gale Group, January 2000.

Wald, P. "Imagined Immunities." In Cultural Studies & Political Theory,edited by J Dean, 189-208. Cornell UP, 2000.

Wald, P, and Patterson, M. "Themes, Topics and Criticism." In Ameican Literary Scholarship 1997, 399-423. Duke UP, 1999. (Chapter)

Wald, P. "Zora Neale Hurston." In A Companion to American Thought,edited by R Fox and J Kloppenberg. Blackwell Publishers, 1995.

Wald, P. "’Chaos Goes Uncourted’: John Yau’s Dis-orienting Poetics." In Cohesion and Dissent in America,edited by J Alkana and C Colatrella, 133-58. SUNY Press, 1994.

Wald, P. "Dreiser and the Fallen Woman Narrative." In The Cambridge Companion to Theodore Dreiser. Duke UP, 1993.

Wald, P. "William Peterfield Trent." In Dictionary of Literary Biography: Nineteenth Century American Literary Critics and Scholars. Columbia, SC: Bruccoli-Clark, Inc, 1989.

Kornberg, A. "Science of technology." 1700-1705. November 1980.


Wald, P. "What's in a cell? John Moore's spleen and the language of bioslavery." NEW LITERARY HISTORY 36, no. 2 (2005): 205-225. Full Text

Baker, HA, and Wald, P. "Anniversaries and "whispering ambitions": 'American Literature' at 75." AMERICAN LITERATURE 76, no. 4 (December 2004): 639-652. Full Text

Wald, P. "Dreiser & The Fallen." Edited by P Wald. Woman Narrative (2003).

Wald, P, Tomes, N, and Lynch, L. "Introduction: Culture and Contagion." American Literary History 14, no. 4 (December 1, 2002): 617-624. (Introduction) Full Text

Dimock, WC, and Wald, P. "Literature and science: Cultural forms, conceptual exchanges - Preface." AMERICAN LITERATURE 74, no. 4 (December 2002): 705-714. Full Text

Wald, P. "The Idea of America." Encyclopedia of American Studies (2001).

Wald, P. "Future Perfect: Genes, Grammar and Geography." New Literary History 4 (2000): 681-708.

Bauer, DM, and Wald, P. "Complaining, conversing, and coalescing." SIGNS 25, no. 4 (2000): 1299-1303. Full Text

Wald, P. "Geographics: Writing the Shtetl into the Ghetto." Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses (November 1999): 209-27.


Wald, P. "Review of Paula Gunn Allen’s A Cannon Between My Knees." Studies in American Indian Literature 9 (1985). (Review)

Wald, P. "Review of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Storyteller." Studies in American Indian Literature 6 (1982). (Review)

Applewhite, J. "Science Fiction." Poetry 138 (June 1981): 156-156. (Poetry) Full Text

Wald, , Clayton, J, and Holloway, KFC. "Genomics in Literature, the Visual Arts, and Culture." Literature and Medicine 26, no. 1.

Tomes, N, and Lynch, L. "Culture and Contagion." special issue of American Literary History 14.