Richard De Prospo

  • Director of American Studies; Ernest A. Howard Professor of English and American Studies

Richard De Prospo

Since the publication of Theism in the Discourse of Jonathan Edwards in 1985, Rich De Prospo has been working to revise American literary history—a task that is usually done from the margins of ethnic, women’s, or queer studies—from the inside out, so to speak, by supposing that early American literature can be (re)read as neocolonial, as differing fundamentally from the modern American literature that it is almost universally accepted as founding, and thus as subverting claims made by generations of scholars that American literature is continuous and unified.

The Latest Early American Literature uncovers the misreadings of early American literature that can result from the virtually unanimous acceptance of early American literature as modern American literature’s immature predecessor, and the forthcoming Poe’s Difference supposes that both Poe, and the popular print culture of the U.S. 1830s and 40s in which Poe tried so hard to curry favor, remain belatedly attached to a European parent culture—indeed, to a European culture that had been left behind in Europe by the middle of the nineteenth century—, a backwardness commonly accepted as a central feature of postcolonial cultures worldwide, but which has been repressed by the Americanist orientation of even the most politically liberal and curricularly expansive of contemporary American literary historians.

De Prospo has been a college and university professor for more than forty years. He is widely published in scholarly journals of early and nineteenth-century American literature, and of literary theory. He has also published on literary Abolitionism in the U.S. and on African-American literature, and has coedited and written the “Afterword” for The Stowe Debate: Rhetorical Strategies in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

  • B.A., Yale University, 1971
  • M.A., University of Virginia, 1972
  • Ph.D., University of Virginia, 1977

Teaching Areas

  • American Literature
  • American Studies
  • Popular Culture
  • Literary Theory

Selected Published Works


  • Poe’s Difference, 2019
  • The Latest Early American Literature, 2016
  • The Stowe Debate, Rhetorical Strategies in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, with Mason Lowance and Ellen Westbrook, 1994
  • Theism in the Discourse of Jonathan Edwards, 1985


  • “Michael Colacurcio’s (Un) Godly Letters.” A Passion for Getting it Right: Essays in Honor of Michael Colacurcio’s 50 Years of Teaching, 2016
  • “Whose/Who’s Ligeia.” Poe Studies, 2012.
  • “Before/Beyond Multiculturalism; the ‘less common idiom’ of Père Isaac Jogues’s Novum Belgium.” When the French Were Here.  Proceedings of the Samuel De Champlain Quadricentennial Symposium, 2010.
  • “Designing the Early American Literature Component of the Undergraduate American Literature Survey Course.”  The CEA Forum, 2010.
  • “Refreuding Lacan.” Poe Studies, 2004.
  • “Contemptus Mundi in the New World.” Studies in Medievalism, 1993.
  • “Humanizing the Monster: Integral Self versus Bodied Soul in the Personal Writings of Franklin and Edwards.” The Historical Legacies of Johnathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin, 1993.
  • “Marginalizing Early American Literature.” New Literary History, 1992.
  • “Jonathan Edwards’s Ethics?” Modern Philology, 1991.


  • Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh (1993)
  • Dupont Fellowship, University of Virginia (1972)