Benjamin Reiss (Ph.D. UC Berkeley, 1997) specializes in 19th-century American literature and culture, with strong interests in the history of medicine, race, disability, and popular culture. He is an editor of the Cambridge History of the American Novel, a collection of seventy new essays by leading scholars.
Reiss is the author of The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum's America (Harvard UP, 2001; repr. 2010) and Theaters of Madness: Insane Asylums and Nineteenth-Century American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2008), as well as essays in journals including American Literary History, Social Text, ELH, American Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Slate. In addition, he has appeared on numerous radio NPR and PRI radio programs discussing his work.
He is now working on Managing Sleep, a book that explores how sleep came to be a problem in need of micro-management, medical attention, and pervasive worry. The book braids together literary, medical, religious, and social history from the Enlightenment to the present. A portion of this work, "Sleeping at Walden Pond," is forthcoming in the journal American Literature.
Professor Reiss teaches courses in traditional literary periods (such as the Nineteenth-Century American Novel and Antebellum American Literature), as well as courses that blend literary analysis with cultural studies, cultural and social history, and the history of medicine and disability. These include Literature and Madness; Sleep in Science and Culture; and Disability and American Culture. Reiss has also taught at Tulane University, and he is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the NEH, the Louisiana Board of Regents, and Emory's Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry.