Benjamin Reiss, Professor

Primary Office: Callaway S402
Office Phone:


Degrees: Ph.D., UC Berkeley



Theaters of Madness

The Slave and the Showman

Wild Nights

Benjamin Reiss

Benjamin Reiss (Ph.D. UC Berkeley, 1997) specializes in 19th-century American literature, disability studies, and health humanities. His new book Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World (Basic Books, 2017)  uses literature, history, science, and psychology to explain how our society created rules and expectations for human sleep that seem to work for few and are thus in constant need of micro-management, medical attention, and pervasive worry. Reiss is also the author of The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum's America (Harvard UP, 2001; repr. 2010) and Theaters of Madness: Insane Asylums and Nineteenth-Century American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2008), as well as essays in journals including American Literature, American Literary History, Social Text, ELH, American Quarterly, Sleep Health, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Slate. He is co-editor editor of the Cambridge History of the American Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and Keywords for Disability Studies (New York University Press, 2015).

Professor Reiss teaches courses in traditional literary periods (such as the Nineteenth-Century American Novel and Antebellum American Literature), as well as courses that blend literary analysis with cultural studies, cultural and social history, and the history of medicine and disability. These include Literature and Madness; Sleep Across the Disciplines; and Disability and American Culture. Reiss has also taught at Tulane University, and he is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the NEH, the Louisiana Board of Regents, and Emory's Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry.

You can find out more about Reiss’s work at