Joe Shapiro | English | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

Joe Shapiro

Associate Professor

Joe Shapiro

Phone: 618.453.6845
Office: Faner, Room 2240

Joe Shapiro received his Ph.D. from Stanford University (2011). His research focuses on how class shaped the development of the U.S. novel, and how the U.S. novel weighed in on matters of class, over the course of the long nineteenth century.

His book, The Illiberal Imagination: Class and the Rise of the U.S. Novel (University of Virginia Press, Fall 2017), challenges the literary historical commonsense according to which class conflict and working-class radicalism are foreign to early U.S. literary history. It does so by offering an historical formalist account of how—and to what end—U.S. novels from the late eighteenth century to the mid-1850s represented economic inequality and responded to radical forms of economic egalitarianism in the new nation. This book assembles and marshals an archive of intellectual and labor history in the service of sustained close readings of novels by Charles Brocken Brown, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, James Fenimore Cooper, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, unveiling how a commitment to economic inequality manifests itself on the level of literary form in the early U.S. novel. (A version of Chapter Three of this book was published as “The Providence of Class: Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Political Economy, and Sentimental Fiction in the 1830s” in American Literary History [2015]. And a related essay, “White Slaves in the Late-Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century American Literary Imagination,” appears in The Cambridge Companion to Slavery in American Literature [2016].)

He has recently begun work on his second book project, tentatively entitled Radicalism and the U.S. Novel in the Long Gilded Age. This book will investigate the relationship between the U.S. novel and working-class radicalism from the early 1880s to World War I, decades that witnessed the emergence of Christian Socialism, the Knights of Labor, the Socialist Labor Party, the Socialist Party, and the Industrial Workers of the World. In part, this book will highlight the ways in which working-class radicalism is central to the novels of canonical writers like W.D. Howells and Jack London. Yet, it will largely be dedicated to novels that have received only minimal attention from contemporary scholars (for instance, Frederick Whittaker’s Larry Locke, Man of Iron and Isaac Friedman’s By Bread Alone and The Radical).

Professor Shapiro predominantly teaches courses on late-eighteenth and nineteenth-century U.S. literature. Past graduate and advanced special topics courses include:

American Literary Realism, American Naturalism, The Rise of the American Novel, Class and Antebellum Literature, Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women Novelists, Poetry in Nineteenth-Century America, Transnational American Literature, and Marxist Literary Theory. He also teaches a version of ENGL209, a course that satisfies part of the Core Curriculum Humanities Requirement, entitled Representing Poverty in U.S. Literature


18th and 19th Century American Literature