Eric Slauter

Eric Slauter
Deputy Dean of the Humanities Division and Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division Associate Professor
Harper Memorial 230
Ph.D., Stanford University, 2000
Teaching at UChicago since 2000


Eric Slauter is Deputy Dean of the Humanities and the College at the University of Chicago, where he is an associate professor in the Department of English, an associate faculty member in the Divinity School, and serves as the founding director of the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture. 

A specialist in early American cultural, intellectual, legal, and political history, Slauter earned a PhD at Stanford University and has held research fellowships at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Huntington Library, and the Newberry Library. He is an elected member of the American Antiquarian Society and an elected fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society. He has chaired the faculty board of the University of Chicago Press and served for a year as visiting editor at the William and Mary Quarterly, the leading journal of early American history. 

Slauter is the author of The State as a Work of Art: The Cultural Origins of the Constitution, which received honorable mention in the MLA Prize for a First Book. He has published articles on the “trade gap” between history and literature in Atlantic studies, a short biography of the enslaved eighteenth-century painter Scipio Moorhead, and a series of essays on the language of rights and equality in early America. He recently recorded twelve lectures on the Declaration of Independence for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and is completing a book on the Declaration’s origins, meanings, and afterlives. Over the past decade he has also given invited talks on a research project that blends environmental, labor, and literary history, “Walden’s Carbon Footprint: People, Plants, Animals, and Machines in the Making of an American Classic,” and he is preparing a book addressed to a general audience.

Since 2008, Slauter has directed the Karla Scherer Center’s flagship course: a multidisciplinary seminar designed for graduate students in the Humanities, the Social Sciences, the Divinity School, and the Law School that features lectures, readings, and visits by Americanist faculty from across the University. The course has enrolled 130 graduate students and featured conversations with 62 different members of the Chicago faculty housed in sixteen departments and four professional schools, from assistant professors of anthropology, creative writing, history, law, sociology, and social work to Nobel Prize winners and MacArthur Fellows. This unique forum has enabled students in the Humanities to connect with and contribute to cutting-edge developments around campus. The seminar’s earliest alumni include assistant professors of American studies, anthropology, art history, English, history, and religious studies who are now beginning to publish their own first books.

Select Publications

“Does the United States Need a Bill of Rights? Monarchs, Presidents, and the Persistence of a Political Genre in the Age of the American Revolution.” Political Thought and the Origins of the American Presidency, ed. Ben Lowe. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2021. 

“The Literature of Revolution and the Origins of Ideological Origins.” New England Quarterly 91:1 (March 2018). Brief version in “Anniversary Roundtable: The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution at Fifty” in Eighteenth-Century Studies 50: 3 (Spring 2017).

“From ‘Equality before the Law’ to ‘Separate but Equal’: Rhetoric, History, and Roberts v. Boston,” Rhetorical Process and Legal Judgments, ed. Austin Sarat. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. 

“Three Lessons from the History of a Book.” PMLA 131: 3 (May 2016).

“Looking for Scipio Moorhead: An ‘African Painter’ in Revolutionary America.” Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic World, edited by Agnes Lugo-Ortiz and Angela Rosenthal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

“Rights.” In The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution, edited by Jane Kamensky and Ed Gray. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

“Beard’s ‘Politics,’ Ours, and Theirs.” Contribution to Centennial Symposium on Charles Beard’s Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. American Political Thought 2:2 (Fall 2013).

“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The Boston Globe, July 3, 2011.

“Revolutions in the Meaning and Study of Politics.” Published simultaneously, with a reply by Michael Rothberg (“Quantifying Culture? A Response to Eric Slauter”), in American Literary History 22:2 (Summer 2010) and Early American Literature 45:2 (July 2010).

“Reading and Radicalization: Print, Causality, and the American Revolution.” Early American Studies 8:1 (Winter 2010). Special issue: “The Atlantic World of Print in the Age of Franklin,” edited by James Green and Rosalind Remer; afterword by David D. Hall.

“The Declaration of Independence and the New Nation.” In The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Jefferson, edited by Frank Shuffelton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

“Literature as Evidence.” Common-place 9:3 (April 2009). Special issue (“Who Reads an Early American Book?”) co-edited with Joanna Brooks and Bryan Waterman.

The State as a Work of Art: The Cultural Origins of the Constitution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009. Honorable Mention, MLA Prize for a First Book.

“History, Literature, and the Atlantic World.” Subject of “The ‘Trade Gap’ in Atlantic Studies: A Forum on Literary and Historical Scholarship,” with responses by Alison Games, Bryan Waterman, Eliga H. Gould, and Elizabeth Maddock Dillon. Published simultaneously in Early American Literature 43:1 (Winter 2008) and the William and Mary Quarterly, 3d Ser., 65:1 (January 2008).

Recent Courses

HUMA 12300: “Human Being and Citizen” (Humanities Core course)

ENGL 17950: “The Declaration of Independence” (Humanities Signature Course cross-listed in English, Fundamentals, History, Human Rights, and Law, Letters, and Society)

ENGL 25405: “The American Classics” (Humanities Signature Course cross-listed in English, Fundamentals, and Law, Letters, and Society)

ENGL 17960: “The American Revolution: Culture and Politics” (cross-listed in History)

ENLG 45433: “Book History: Methods, Practices, and Issues” (Graduate Course offered at Special Collections)

ENGL 55402: “Enlightenment and Revolution in America (cross-listed in History)

ENGL 55405: “The Multidisciplinary Study of American Culture” (Graduate Course with public lectures and seminars with UChicago scholars sponsored by the Scherer Center and cross-listed in English, History, the Divinity School, and the Law School)