Emily Coit

Emily Coit
Assistant Instructional Professor
Walker 505
Ph.D., Yale University, 2009
Teaching at UChicago since 2021
Research Interests: Nineteenth-century American Literature | Nineteenth-century British Literature | Literary History | Book History


My teaching and research focus on conversations about education and democracy in the US and Britain during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I'm especially interested in the histories of higher education, whiteness, and feminism. My current book project, "Hard Reading," investigates the making and early reception of the Harvard Classics; I'm also co-editing, with Philip Horne and Tamara Follini, a volume of Henry James's early short stories for the Cambridge Edition of the Complete Fiction of Henry James.  

My first book, American Snobs: Transatlantic Novelists, Liberal Culture, and the Genteel Tradition (Edinburgh University Press, 2021), shows how Henry Adams, Henry James, and Edith Wharton responded to a strand of Victorian liberalism that flourished in Boston, especially at Harvard University. The book disambiguates the varied elitisms and racisms of this trio's privileged set in order to show how each of these authors interrogated liberal ideas about education and democracy. Locating Adams, James, and Wharton within the history of higher education, American Snobs points to these authors' role in developing the ideas that governed the study of US literature during the twentieth century.

Before coming to Chicago, I taught at the University of Bristol in the UK, where I joined the English faculty in 2015 after holding postdoctoral teaching positions at Princeton and Oxford.

Selected Publications


American Snobs: Transatlantic Novelists, Liberal Culture, and the Genteel Tradition. Edinburgh University Press, January 2021.

Refereed Journal Articles:

"The Man of Letters: Professor Barrett Wendell and the Style of White Supremacy." College Literature Special Issue: "American Literary Institutions around 1900," edited by Sheila Liming, Florian Sedlmeier, and Alexander Starre. Forthcoming.

"Ozick's Feminism and the Woman Writer." Studies in American Jewish Literature Special Issue: "Cynthia Ozick and the Art of Nonfiction," edited by Michèle Mendelssohn and Charlie Tyson. 43.1 (2024): 59-75.

"Mary Augusta Ward's 'Perfect Economist' and the Logic of Anti-Suffragism." ELH 82 (Winter 2015): 1213-1238.

"Henry James's Dramas of Cultivation: Liberalism and Democracy in The Bostonians and The Princess Casamassima." Henry James Review 36 (Summer 2015): 177-198.

"'This Immense Expense of Art': George Eliot and John Ruskin on Consumption and the Limits of Sympathy." Nineteenth-Century Literature 65 (September 2010): 214-245.

Book Chapters and Other Writing:

"Notes On… Reading and Attention in Wharton's Modernity and Ours." Edith Wharton Review. Forthcoming.

"Edith Wharton's Microscopist and the Science of Language." The Palgrave Handbook of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature and Science. Edited by Ahuja et al. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

"American Nervousness: Motherhood and the 'Mental Activity of Women' in the Era of Sexual Anarchy." In Edinburgh Companion to Fin-de-Siècle Literature, Culture and the Arts, edited by Josephine Guy, 361-380. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2018.

"'A Roaring and Discontinuous Universe': Edith Wharton's Modern Hauntings." In The Routledge Companion to the Ghost Story, edited by Luke Thurston & Scott Brewer, 159-167. London: Routledge, 2018.

"'The Orthodox Creed of the Business World'? Philanthropy and Liberal Individualism in Edith Wharton's The Fruit of the Tree." In Philanthropic Discourse in Anglo-American Literature, 1850-1920, edited by Frank Q. Christianson and Leslee Thorne-Murphy, 190-210. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2017. 



Democracy and the School: Writing about Education

Genre Fundamentals: Fiction

Reading Nineteenth-Century Feminisms



American Fiction of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

James Beyond the Novel

Ways of Reading in the Long Nineteenth Century

Writing in the Humanities


Subject Area: 19th Century