Priscilla Wald

R. Florence Brinkley Professor of English

External address: 
327B Allen Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
Box 90015, Durham, NC 27708-0015
(919) 684-6869

Priscilla Wald teaches and works on U.S. literature and culture, particularly literature of the late-18th to mid-20th centuries, contemporary narratives of science and medicine, science fiction literature and film, and environmental studies. Her current work focuses on the intersections among the law, literature, science and medicine. Her recent book-length study, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, considers the intersection of medicine and myth in the idea of contagion and the evolution of the contemporary stories we tell about the global health problem of "emerging infections." She is currently at work on a book-length study entitled Human Being After Genocide. This work chronicles the challenge to conceptions of human being that emerged from scientific and technological innovation in the wake of the Second World War and from the social and political thought of that period, which addressed the geopolitical transformations that followed the war and decolonization movements. The trajectory of the book moves from these challenges through the rise of science fiction and the theory of "biopolitics" to the mapping of the human genome and its consequences. She is especially interested in analyzing how information emerging from research in the genome sciences circulates through mainstream media and popular culture and how the language, narratives and images in those media register and promote a particular understanding of the science that is steeped in (often misleading) cultural biases and assumptions. Recently, having co-edited, with Michael Elliott, volume 6 of the Oxford History of the Novel in English, The American Novel, 1870-1940, Wald is also working on several essays on American literature and culture for essay collections. In her research, her teaching and her professional activities, she is committed to promoting conversations among scholars from science, medicine, law and cultural studies in order to facilitate a richer understanding of these issues. Wald is the author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form. She is also editor of American Literature as well as on the Editorial Board of Literature and Medicine, co-editor of a book series on nineteenth-century American Literature at NYU Press, Chair of the Faculty Board of Duke University Press and on the Advisory Board of the Centre for Humanities and Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. She has served on the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association and is currently the MLA representative to the American Council of Learned Societies; she recently completed a term as President of the American Studies Association. She has a secondary appointment in Women's Studies, is on the steering committee of ISIS (Information Sciences + Information Studies) and is a member of the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and an affiliate of the Trent Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities and the Institute for Global Health.


  • Ph.D., Columbia University 1989
  • M.A., Columbia University 1981
  • B.A., Yale University 1980

Wald, P. "Viral cultures: Microbes and politics in the cold war." In Zombie Theory: A Reader, 33-62. January 1, 2017.

Wald, P. "Foreword." v-viii. January 1, 2016. Full Text

Wald, P. "Foreword." viii-xi. January 26, 2015. Full Text

Wald, P. "Science, technology, and the environment." In The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction, 179-193. January 1, 2015. Full Text

Wald, P. "The Cultural Politics of Blood, 1500-1900."edited by K Cole, R Bauer, Z Nunes, and C Patterson. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. (Foreword)

Wald, P. "Science and Literature in America." In Oxford Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology in America,edited by H Slotten, S Usselman, and C Clark. 2014. (Chapter)

Wald, P. "The ‘Hidden Tyrant’: Propaganda, Brainwashing, and Psycho-Politics in the Cold War Period." In Oxford Handbook of Propaganda Studies,edited by J Auerbach and R Castronovo, 109-130. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Wald, P. "Afterword." In Contagionism and Contagious Diseases: Medicine and Literature between 1880 and 1933,edited by T Rutten and M King, 225-232. De Gruyter, 2013.

Wald, P. "Afterword: Global Health and the Persistence of History." In Imperial Contagions: Medicine and Cultures of Planning in Asia,edited by R Peckham and D Pomfret, 215-25. University of Hong Kong Press, 2013. (Afterword)

Wald, P. "Immigrant Literature and the Immigrant Experience." In Immigrants in American History: Arrival, Adaptation, and Integration,edited by E Barkan, 1839-55. ABC-Clio, 2013.


Wald, P. "More Than Hot: A Short History of Fever (Johns Hopkins Biographies of Disease)." SOCIAL HISTORY OF MEDICINE 29, no. 3 (August 2016): 663-664. Full Text

Wald, P. "The Provincialism of Time." Early American Literature 50, no. 1 (2015): 63-80. Full Text

Hudson, P, Goldfield, D, Bailey, RL, Hubal, EC, Wald, P, and Stewart, D. "Serials from the Other Side: An Editorial Perspective on Current Trends in Scholarly Communication." Serials Review 39, no. 3 (September 2013): 190-192. Full Text

Hudson, P, Goldfield, D, Bailey, RL, Hubal, EC, Wald, P, and Stewart, D. "Serials from the Other Side: An Editorial Perspective on Current Trends in Scholarly Communication." SERIALS REVIEW 39, no. 3 (September 2013): 190-192. Full Text

Morgan, PT, and Wald, P. "Preface: Thoreau Symposium." AMERICAN LITERATURE 85, no. 1 (March 2013): 1-3. Full Text

Wald, P. "Botanophobia: Fear of Plants in the Atomic Age." Japanese Journal of American Studies (2013): 7-27.

Wald, P. "American Studies and the Politics of Life: ASA Presidential Address." American Quarterly 64 (2012): 185-204. (Academic Article)

Wald, P. "Exquisite Fragility: Human Being in the Aftermath of War." (October 12, 2011): 437-453. (Chapter) Full Text

Canavan, G, and Wald, P. "American Literature: Preface." American Literature 83, no. 2 (June 1, 2011): 237-249. Full Text

Canavan, G, and Wald, P. "Speculative Fictions Preface." AMERICAN LITERATURE 83, no. 2 (June 2011): 237-249. Full Text


Wald, P. "Review of Jonathan Metzal's he Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease." SOCIAL HISTORY OF MEDICINE 24, no. 1 (April 2011): 194-195. (Review) Full Text

Wald, P. "Review of Susan Mizruchi's The Rise of Multicultural America: Economy and Print Culture, 1865-1915." NOVEL-A FORUM ON FICTION 44, no. 3 (2011): 467-470. (Review)

Wald, P. "Review of Cynthia H. Tolentino's America's Experts: Race and the Fictions of Sociology." NOVEL-A FORUM ON FICTION 44, no. 3 (2011): 467-470. (Review)

Wald, P. "Review of Laura Otis’ Networking: Communicating with Bodies and Machines in the Nineteenth Century." Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 46 (2003): 452-54. (Review)

Wald, P. "Review of John Carlos Rowe’s The Other Henry James." New England Quarterly (2000).