Professor Bridget Bennett

Professor Bridget Bennett

Professor of American Literature & Culture

+44(0) 113 343 4751

Summary: Current Undergraduate Teaching Danger and Domesticity in American Literature This module is closely related to my ongoing work on home Encountering the Past American Words, American Worlds.

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. Before moving to Leeds I spent several years working in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick .

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) and Twelve Months in an English Prison (2003, two volumes).

My most recent major work is a monograph titled Transatlantic Spiritualism and Nineteenth-Century American Literature (2007). A one year Leverhulme Trust Fellowship supported the early research and it was completed with additional research funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The book focuses on powerful kinds of haunting that often involve impersonations and acts of ventriloquism. I am currently working on a monograph titled Danger at Home. This focuses on the relationship between home and danger within US culture from the colonial period onwards, and especially on the construction of the white home. I argue that the home, often valorised as a place of safety in cultural texts, is always a place of incipient danger, either from within its boundaries or from beyond them. Home is both a location (though not necessarily a single location) and an affective category. As an abstract concept home encompasses not only material ideas, represented by dwelling places and physical structures, but also notions of belonging usually shaped by complex interactions between cultural, ethnic, religious or other factors. It describes places of origin as well as of current domicile, and can encompass the ways these are connected through memory, desire and longing. A mobility grant from the World Universities Network allowed me to visit the University of California , San Diego in the early stages of the project.

My interest in home led me to apply to the AHRC's Connected Communities Programme. This led, in January 2012 to the award of £37,067 for a project titled "Imagining the Place of Home". My colleague Dr Hamilton Carroll is the Co-Investigator on the project and we have recently appointed a Project Researcher Ruth Mackay. 'Imagining the Place of Home' will map current and historically significant research on the relationship between home and the imagination in the fields of literary and cultural studies. It aims to deepening understanding of work already undertaken within the arts and humanities and think about research which needs to be undertaken in the future. For more information please email

I have supervised or am supervising theses on a wide range of topics including A.R.Ammons; C19th U.S. urban fiction; Louisa May Alcott and Elizabeth Gaskell; social realism and the daguerreotype; citizenship, transformation and U.S. fiction. 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.

I regularly give lectures and talk and engage in seminars with academic and non-academic audiences. In the recent past I have given numerous talks including in Boston , Dublin , Edinburgh , Glasgow , London , Manchester , Nottingham, Plymouth , San Diego , San Francisco , Sheffield, Taipei , Vercelli . 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 Howard Assembly Room and City Museum and in schools and community groups. I particularly enjoy this aspect of my work. 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