Top of page
Skip to main content
Main content

Benjamin ReissSamuel Candler Dobbs Professor


Benjamin Reiss (Ph.D. UC Berkeley, 1997), Professor and Chair of English, specializes in 19th-century American literature, disability studies, and health humanities. His most recent 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, and Sleep Health. His work also has appeared in the Los Angeles Times (here, here, and here), the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Slate.

He is a 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). And he is a founding director of Emory’s Disability Studies Initiative. 

Professor Reiss teaches courses in traditional literary periods (such as the Nineteenth-Century American Novel, Literary Transcendentalism, 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.


  • Ph.D., UC Berkeley


Theaters of Madness: Insane Asylums and Nineteenth-Century American CultureThe Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum's AmericaWild Nights HOW TAMING SLEEP CREATED OUR RESTLESS WORLD