Emily Coit

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


I specialize in transatlantic literary and intellectual history. My teaching and research focus on conversations about education, citizenship, 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 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: the story of their responses to liberalism is also a story about literary studies and, more broadly, about how intellectuals have understood their own political duties and powers.

My second book project investigates the making of the Harvard Classics (1910) and how people have used those books. I'm also co-editing, with Philip Horne and Tamara Follini, a volume of Henry James's short stories for the Cambridge Edition of the Complete Fiction of Henry James.  

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. I'm interested in both the history and the practice of pedagogy, and I enjoy teaching academic writing and research methods through the lens of disciplinary history. 

Selected Publications

American Snobs: Transatlantic Novelists, Liberal Culture, and the Genteel Tradition. Edinburgh UP, 2021.

"Edith Wharton's Microscopist and the Science of Language." In The Palgrave Handbook of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature and Science, edited by Neel 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.
"Mary Augusta Ward's 'Perfect Economist' and the Logic of Anti-Suffragism." ELH 82.4 (Winter 2015): 1213-1238. 
"Henry James's Dramas of Cultivation: Liberalism and Democracy in The Bostonians and The Princess Casamassima." Henry James Review 36.2 (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.   


ENGL 30430 American Fiction of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Winter 2022 (18th/19th)

This course offers an introduction to fiction from the Gilded Age and Progressive Era in the US. We'll ask how short stories and novels intervene in the period's debates about US imperialism, immigration, corporate capitalism, eugenics, racism, and democracy; we'll also examine fiction's role in writing the history of the Civil War, sectional reconciliation, and the racial violence attending Reconstruction and its aftermath. Paying close attention to how and where our texts were first published and read, we'll consider the usefulness of the categories that have described them (such as regionalism, realism, and naturalism). Authors may include: Charles Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, Stephen Crane, Pauline Hopkins, Upton Sinclair, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton.

ENGL 25230 Democracy and the School: Writing about Education, Spring 2022 (Fiction, 1830-1940)

Examining arguments about schooling in democracy, access to education, and the relationship between education and power, this course reads fiction and nonfiction prose from the US during the decades after Reconstruction, when education figures centrally in debates about citizenship and enfranchisement. Taking up writers including Anna Julia Cooper, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Zitkala-Sa, W.E.B. Du Bois, Edith Wharton, and Henry Adams, we'll weigh conflicting accounts of education as device for control, a site for violence, a means of becoming oneself, and a vital form of democratic empowerment.


Subject Area: 19th Century