Dr Erin Forbes

BA, MA(Prin.), PhD(Prin.)

  • BS8 1TB

If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile

Research interests

I study African American and U.S. literature of the long 19th century, always with an eye toward the relay between racialized formations of the human and the aesthetic. I have written on literary and historical figures including Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Benjamin Rush, Richard Allan, Absalom Jones, David Walker, Nat Turner, Thomas De Quincey, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Jacobs. I’ve also explored the archives of Atlantic slave trade, late eighteenth-century yellow fever epidemics, crime writing in the popular periodical press, the penitentiary, slave revolts, and the Spiritualist movement.

My first book, Criminal Genius in African American and U.S. Literature, 1793-1845 is forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press. This book locates creative genius on the plantation, in the swamp, and behind bars to better account for the agency of those constitutively excluded from the liberal project. By situating the rise of Romantic-era notions of the super-agent, or “genius” within the history of criminality’s associations with Blackness, I demonstrate that, within white supremacy, an aestheticized criminality has sometimes exceeded the work of racialized oppression to which it has so often been conscripted.

I am currently working on another monograph Reading the Nineteenth Century in Black, White and Green, which adopts an environmental framework to show how aesthetic practices can sometimes preserve and perpetuate an understanding of human agency as reliant on intra-action with the nonhuman natural world. Drawing on African American literature and Africana thought, it critiques new materialist theories of nonhuman agency for their frequent occlusion of the crucial context of racialization. 

I earned my B.A. at Reed College and my M.A. and Ph.D. at Princeton University and, before coming to Bristol, was Associate Professor in English and African American and Diaspora Studies at the University of Wyoming (USA).



I teach and lecture teaching on undergraduate units including Literatures of Enslavement, Texts in a Global Context, Readings in Gender and Sexuality, Representations: This is (not) my America, Black British Literature, American Revolutions, and Celebrity Cultures. I convene a special subject on African American Literature. At the MA level, I teach on the Black Humanites MA and the English MA units 'Animal Planet' and 'The Gothic', for which I am also convener.

Structured keywords and research groupings

  • Centre for Black Humanities


  • Research interests: African American and U.S. literature of the long 19th- century; literature of enslavement; new materialisms; race and environment; Spiritualism; the penitentiary; American Enlightenment/American Gothic; Harriet Jacobs; Edgar Allan Poe


Dive into the research topics where Erin Forbes is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or