Professor Bridget Bennett

Professor Bridget Bennett


My first degree was in English and Philosophy which I followed by a comparative MA in American and British writing and a DPhil on an American novelist who spent many years as the London Correspondent to the New York Times. From these varied experiences I have developed a strong interest in thinking across boundaries and disciplines. My engagement with transatlantic thought and practice is also a lasting legacy of this period. I am currently Professor of American Literature and Culture in the School of English. I have also been the Vice Chair of the British Association for American Studies (BAAS) and am currently an active member of both BAAS,The Society for Ninteenth-Century Americanists (C19) and the British Association for Nineteenth-Century Americanists (BrANCA). I regularly give keynotes at international conferences, assess manuscripts for journals and academic presses, review grant proposals for national and international funding bodies, participate in outreach activity. Media work includes contributions to programmes on BBC Radio 3 and 4 as well as local radio.  I am currently on research leave (2020-2022), having been awarded a Leverhulme Major Fellowship for a project titled “The Dissenting Atlantic: Archives and Unquiet Libraries, 1776-1865.”  I am a member of Sub-Panel 27 for REF 2021 and am also a member of the AHRC Peer Review College as an academic and strategic reviewer.

Research interests

My research interests are reflected in my main publications: Ripples of Dissent (1996); The Damnation of Harold Frederic (1997); Grub Street to the Ivory Tower (1998); Special Relationships: Anglo-American Affinities and Antagonisms, 1854-1936, (2002), Twelve Months in an English Prison (2003, two volumes) and Transatlantic Spiritualism and Nineteenth-Century American Literature (2007).  I have recently edited two books for the Macmillan Press, Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass and Selected Poems (2019), and Willa Cather, My Ántonia (2019). 

My current research interests include a focus of representations of home in American culture, the focus of my monograph in progress.  A number of publications related to this have already appeared: "'The Silence Surrounding the Hut': Invisible Slaves and Vanished Indians in Wieland" Early American Literature 53:2, Summer 2018, 369-404 which was awarded the 2019 Arthur Miller Prize; "The Crisis of Restoration: Mary Rowlandson's Lost Home" Early American Literature 49.2, Summer 2014, 327-356; "Home Songs and the Melodramatic Imagination: From "Home, Sweet Home" to The Birth of a Nation", Journal of American Studies (46: 1, 2012, 1-17).  A jointly-authored research review was supported by AHRC funding:  "Imagining the Place of Home"   

A further longstanding interest is in spiritualism.  In addition to my 2003 and 2007 books on spiritualism, I have also published articles including, "The Dear Old Sacred Terror: Spiritualism and the Supernatural from The Bostonians to The Turn of the Screw" in The Ashgate Research Companion to Spiritualism and the Occult in the Nineteenth Century eds. Sarah Willburn and Tatiana Kontou (Leicester: Ashgate, 2013), 311-331.  I participated in a programme for BBC Radio Devon on Arthur Conan Doyle and spiritualism, called "Sherlock, Spirits and Soldiers".  You can listen to the programme here:

An interest in transatlantic and transatlantic approaches to American literature has always been a key element of my research, and is central to two articles,  "Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois and Transatlantic Echoes of "The Color Line" in Transatlantic Exchanges From the Anglo-American War to the Emancipation Proclamation eds. Kevin Hutchings and Julia Wright (Leicester: Ashgate 2011), 101-113, and "Transatlantic Relations", The Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1830-1914 ed. Joanne Shattock, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.)  November 2016, Lead: Being Human Festival “US Slavery and Yorkshire Anti-Slavery: Forgotten Narratives from the Leeds Archive; May 2014

More broadly, I'm interested in nineteenth-century American literature.  I regularly give lectures and talks, nationally and internationally,  and engage in seminars with academic and non-academic audiences.  In December 2017 I was a contributor to a BBC Radio 4 programme, "In Our Time" on Herman Melville's novel  Moby-Dick, which you can listen to here  In October 2018 I was contributor to "In Our Time" on Edith Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence which you can listen to here:

I have also spoken on the BBC, at outreach events at the University of Leeds and throughout Leeds at public events in venues such as the Leeds Library, the Howard Assembly Room and City Museum and in schools and to community groups. In 2009-2011 I worked with an undergraduate student, Yosra Awad on a project titled "Transatlantic Abolition: Nineteenth-Century Yorkshire" which traced the impact of abolitionist activism in Leeds and Yorkshire . The Faculty of Arts supported this project through the award of an undergraduate research scholarship. We developed a public-facing website with activities aimed at children, including two short films. The project also curated an exhibition at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery using materials we uncovered in our research. For more information see  My  new major research project focuses on the relationship between dissenters (especially Quakers) in Yorkshire and Pennsylvania between about 1750 and 1870.  I'm particularly interested in their involvement with founding public institutions such as hospitals, schools and libraries and in their anti-slavery and abolitionist activity.  I have an article forthcoming on this subject – “Nineteenth-Century Abolition and the Unquiet Library: Transatlantic Print Culture and the Making of the 'Celebrated Philanthropist', Anthony Benezet” – and another article about a previously unknown edition of the narrative of the Reverend Thomas Jones, "A British Quaker and a Fugitive from Slavery Encounter Each Other on a Train in New England, 1850" (in press).  A further related article has appeared recently: Guerrilla inscription: Transatlantic abolition and the 1851 census, Atlantic Studies, 17:3, 375-398, (2020).

In November 2016 I organised a set of events at Leeds as part of the national  Being Human Festival with the title, “US Slavery and Yorkshire Anti-Slavery: Forgotten Narratives from the Leeds Archive".  I also led a Sadler Seminar series titles "Shh!  Encounters in the Unquiet Library" from 2017-2018.  For details, follow this link:

I have supervised or am supervising theses on a wide range of topics including A.R.Ammons and the poetics of walking; C19th U.S. urban fiction; Louisa May Alcott and Elizabeth Gaskell; social realism and the daguerreotype; citizenship, transformation and U.S. fiction and am currently supervising a very diverse range of topics from representations of home in anglophone texts from the Middle East, the representation of birdsong in early American texts, the afterlife of transcendentalism in the twenty-first century and on non-reading in the contemporary novel.  I would be willing to supervise students working on any of the areas that I'm researching on, or any cognate area. Please feel free to contact me to discuss research plans. I am especially interested in United States literary culture and cultural history with a particular focus on the nineteenth century; spiritualism and spiritualist performances and their impact on literary and cultural formations and representation; transatlanticism and the circumatlantic (especially literary transatlanticism); cultures of home; transnational slavery; dissenting and radical religious and political cultures.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BA (Hons)
  • DPhil

Professional memberships

  • British Association for American Studies (BAAS)
  • British Association of Nineteenth-Century Americanists (BrANCA)
  • Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists (C19)
  • American Studies Association
  • C19 in the North

Student education

I usually teach across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, chiefly on US literary and cultural texts from the colonial period to the present. 

Research groups and institutes

  • American Studies Research Group

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>