Hollis Robbins

(on sabbatical leave 2017-2018)


Hollis Robbins, PhD (on sabbatical leave 2017-2018) is a member of the Humanities faculty at the Peabody Institute, where she has taught since 2006, and was Director of the Center for Africana Studies from 2014-2017. Her work focuses on the intersection of 19th-century American and African American literature and the discourses of law, bureaucracy, and the press. She was from 2003 to 2006 the director/managing editor of the Black Periodical Literature Project at Harvard’s DuBois Institute and is currently the Principle Investigator on the “Visualizing the History of the Black Press in the United States" National Endowment of Humanities Office of Digital Humanities Start-up Grant. She is currently a fellow at the National Humanities Center in Durham, NC.

Robbins has edited or co-edited five books on 19th-century African American literature; the latest is the Penguin Portable African American Women Writers (July 2017). Others include the Penguin Classics edition of Frances E.W. Harper’s 1892 novel Iola Leroy, or, Shadows Uplifted; The Annotated Uncle Tom’s Cabin, co-edited with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; In Search of Hannah Crafts, Essays on The Bondwoman’s Narrative, co-edited with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; and The Selected Works of William Wells Brown, co-edited with Paula Garrett.

Recent articles and book chapters include essays on Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars, on African American literature of the gold rush, and on the music of Django Unchained. Robbins holds a PhD in English from Princeton University, an MPP (Master in Public Policy) from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a BA in the Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins.

Current Book Projects

Forms of Contention: the African American Sonnet Tradition.

Forms of Contention examines the tradition of African American sonnet writing beginning with the sole fourteen-line poem written by Phillis Wheatley, “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” (1768), and extending to the sonnet sequences published by Elizabeth Alexander, Rita Dove, Marilyn Nelson, and others in the twenty-first century. Forms of Contention theorizes the relationship between the sonnet form and the political and literary voice of African American writers. Forms of Contention situates black sonnets within the entire sonnet canon and transforms our understanding of American poetry accordingly.


Krieger School of Arts & Sciences

AS 362-374 Black Cinema

AS 362-200 African American Poetry and Poetics

AS 360-133 Great Books at Homewood

AS 362-106 The Civil Rights Era: Law and Image

Peabody Conservatory

PY 260-115 Humanities Core I: Introduction to Interpretation.

PY 260-211 19th Century Novel to Film.

PY 260-216 Humanities Core II Research Methods: Moby-Dick

PY 260-226 Modern Drama.

PY 260-228 Literary Trials: Justice in Black and White.

PY 260-232 World Film.

PY 260-250 U.S. History: Civil Rights

PY 260-312 Literature of Imprisonment.

PY 260-313 Bible as Literature

PY 260-316 20th Century Aesthetics and Politics.

PY 260-320 Shakespeare

PY 260-349 Film Music History: Sound and Scores


Selected book chapters and articles:

“Teaching Frederick Douglass as a Master Rhetorician.” Engaging Worlds: Core Texts and Cultural Contexts Eds. Robert D. Anderson, Molly Brigid Flynn, and J. Scott Lee, University Press of America, 2016.

“U.S. History in 70 MM.’” Review of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 15:3 (July 2016): 6-8.

"Django Unchained: Repurposing Western Film Music.” Safundi: the Journal of South African and American Studies 16:3 (July 2015).

“African American Literature of the Gold Rush,” Co-author Janet Neary. Bordering Establishments: Mapping Regions in Early American Writing. Athens: University of Georgia Press (2015).

“Dramatic Echoes,” The Pocket Instructor: Literature, eds. Diana Fuss and William Gleason. Princeton University Press (2015).

“Killing Time: Dracula and Social Discoordination.” Economics of the Undead: Zombies, Vampires, and the Dismal Science. Eds. Glen Whitman & James P. Dow. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

“William Wordsworth’s ‘We Are Seven’ and the First British Census.” ELN 48.2, Fall/Winter (2010): 201-214.

“Fugitive Mail: Henry ‘Box’ Brown and Antebellum Postal Politics.” American Studies 50:1/2 (2009): 5-25.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Matter of Influence.” History Now, A Quarterly Journal, Gilder Lehrman Institute, Issue 16, June 2008.

“The Deliverance of Henry ‘Box’ Brown.” Johns Hopkins Center for Africana Studies Working Paper Series, 2008.

“A Menstrual Lesson for Girls: Maria Edgeworth’s ‘The Purple Jar.’” Menstruation: A Cultural History. Eds. Andrew Shail and Gillian Howie, 213-234. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

“The Emperor’s New Critique.” New Literary History 34.4 (2003): 659-675.

“Blackening Bleak House: Hannah Crafts’s The Bondwoman’s Narrative.” In Search of Hannah Crafts. Eds. Gates and Robbins, 71-86. New York: Basic Books, 2003.

“Black Arts and Crafts: Literary Alchemy in The Bondwoman’s Narrative.” Academic Companion to The Bondwoman’s Narrative, Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., XanEdu Press, 2002.

“Flushing Away Sentiment: Water Politics in The Custom of the Country.” Edith Wharton’s Custom of the Country. Eds. Isabelle Boof-Vermesse and Anne Ullmo-Michel, 40-47. Paris: Ellipses, 2000.

“Government Regulation of Gambling Advertising: Replacing Vice Prevention with Consumer Protection” (co-author, Michael B. Rothman). The Journal of Gambling Studies 7.4 Winter (1991): 337-360.