- Jean Wall Bennet Professor of English and American Studies (2002)
- 7133 Helen C. White Hall
- (608) 263-7467
- E-mail Russ Castronovo
- American literature, African American literature, American Studies, cultural theory and popular culture
Degrees and Institutions
PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz
BA, University of California, Berkeley
- Propaganda 1776: Secrets, Leaks, and Revolutionary Communications in Early America (New York, Oxford University Press, 2014);
- Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007);
- Necro Citizenship: Death, Eroticism, and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth-Century United States (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001);
- Fathering the Nation: American Genealogies of Slavery and Freedom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995);
- Materializing Democracy: Toward a Revitalized Cultural Politics, co-edited with Dana Nelson (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002);
- Aesthetics and the End(s) of American Cultural Studies: Special Issue of American Literature, co-edited with Chris Castiglia (forthcoming).
- Plus articles in The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, ELN, Critical Inquiry, boundary 2, American Literary History, New Literary History, American Literature, PMLA on figures such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, W. E. B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, Harriet Jacobs, Herman Melville, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
After finishing up Propaganda 1776, a book that examines the connections between communications and democracy in early America, I’ve embarked on a project about conservatism. It strikes me that liberal academics (myself included) know very little about conservative ideology and its relationship to literary production, meaning, and circulation. So far, my scope is broad, and I’m reading everything from Edmund Burke (Reflections on the Revolution in France and Letters on a Regicide Peace) to Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged).
My initial work on this topic is taking shape as a talk/essay entitled, “Sex and the Conservative Girl.” Stay tuned: I’m in the early stages of this work and I’ll hope to provide sharper definitions in the coming months.
I am interested in the uses of literature in forming critical citizenship. In my classes, this interest entails a commitment to analytic exchange and dialogue, collective interpretation, and interdisciplinary pursuits of knowledge. My classes seek to implement this approach by ranging across topics such as modern critical theory, popular culture, nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, propaganda, and the political novel.
Oxford University Press
- Upends traditional understandings of early American literary culture
- Advances a counter-intuitive argument for the importance of propaganda in the founding era
- Offers new perspectives on figures like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine
Oxford University Press
How do we approach the rich field of nineteenth-century American literature? How might we recalibrate the coordinates of critical vision and open up new areas of investigation? To answer such questions, this volume brings together 23 original essays written by leading scholars in American literary studies.
University of Chicago Press
Are aesthetic experiences always a social good? Could aesthetics also inspire violent crime, working-class unrest, and racial murder? To answer these questions, Russ Castronovo turns to those who debated claims that art could democratize culture - civic reformers, anarchists, novelists, civil rights activists, and college professors - to reveal that beauty provides unexpected occasions for radical, even revolutionary, political thinking.
For the most part, democracy is simply presumed to exist in the United States. It is viewed as a completed project rather than as a goal to be achieved. Fifteen leading scholars challenge that stasis in Materializing Democracy. They aim to reinvigorate the idea of democracy by placing it in the midst of a contentious political and cultural fray, which, the volume’s editors argue, is exactly where it belongs.
Duke University Press
In Necro Citizenship Russ Castronovo argues that the meaning of citizenship in the United States during the nineteenth century was bound to - and even dependent on - death. Deploying an impressive range of literary and cultural texts, Castronovo interrogates an American public sphere that fetishized death as a crucial point of political identification.
University of California Press
Fathering the Nation examines competing expressions of national memory appearing in a wide range of mid-nineteenth-century artifacts, including slave autobiography, classic American fiction, monumental architechture, myths of the Revolution, proslavery writing, and landscape painting. While these images, icons, and fictions attempt to present an ordered, inspiring narrative of America, they also tell other stories that disrupt the nation.