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

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

Wald, P. "Biological Evolution, keyword entry (Accepted)." In Fueling Culture: Energy, History, Politics,edited by I Szeman. Fordham University Press. (Essay)

Wald, P. "Natural Disaster (Accepted)." In Keywords in the Study of Environment and Culture,edited by J Adamson, WA Gleason, and D Pellow. New York University Press. (Essay)


Wald, P, DiStefano, C, and Weisenfeld, J. "Edititorial." Institutions, Regulation, and Social Control, Signs 24, no. 4 (1999): 857-868. (Editorial Comment)

Wald, P. "Fabulous Shadows: Rethinking the Emersonian Tradition." American Quarterly 50 (December 1998): 831-39.

Wald, P. "Minefields and Meeting Grounds: Transnational Analyses and American Studies." American Literary History 10, no. 1 (January 1, 1998): 199-218. Full Text

Wald, P. "Minefields and Meeting Grounds: Transnational Analyses and American Studies." American Literary History 9, no. 1 (1997): 199-218.

Wald, P. "Hearing Narrative Voices in Melville’s Pierre." boundary 2 17 (1990): 100-32.