Thomas Koenigs teaches and writes about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American literature, with a particular focus on prose fiction and the novel. His first book, Founded in Fiction: The Uses of Fiction in the Early United States (Princeton University Press 2021), reframes the history of the novel in the United States as a history of competing varieties of fictionality. Spanning the years 1789–1861, Founded in Fiction challenges the “rise of novel” narrative that has long dominated the study of American fiction by highlighting how many of the texts that have often been considered the earliest American novels actually defined themselves in contradistinction to the novel. Their writers developed self-consciously extranovelistic varieties of fiction, as they attempted to reform political discourse, shape women’s behavior, reconstruct a national past, and advance social criticism. The book is a history of the ways in which these diverse forms and theories of fiction shaped how Americans addressed issues ranging from national politics to gendered authority to the intimate violence of slavery.
He is just beginning work on a second book that explores the varied modes for representing thought and interiority in US fiction from before the rise of the novel of consciousness in the late nineteenth century. The book will explore early US writers’ deep ambivalence about fiction’s distinctive potential to represent the hidden thoughts and feelings of its characters and trace the formal alternatives they developed to the transparent psychonarration conventionally found in third-person fiction.
His articles and essays on American literature have appeared in ELH, American Literature, Early American Literature, ESQ, and The Journal of American Studies. Most recently, he published an article on Frederick Douglass’s “The Heroic Slave” in J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists. He is also currently co-editing a special issue of Early American Literature on “Early American Fictionality” with Matthew Pethers (University of Nottingham).
At Scripps, Professor Koenigs teaches courses on American literature, including “Readings in American Literature,” “American Women Writers,” “The Slave Narrative and the Novel of Slavery,” “The Early American Novel,” “Melville and Douglass,” and “American Modernism.” He also teaches senior seminars on “Antebellum Literature and Popular Culture” and “Theory of the American Novel.” He has taught in Core I and he often teaches a Core II course on “Becoming Someone in American Culture.” He received the Mary W. Johnson Faculty Achievement Awards for teaching (2014-15 and 2018-19) and for research (2015-16).
- B.A. Johns Hopkins University
- M.A., Ph.D. Yale University
Nineteenth-Century American Literature, African-American Literature, the Transatlantic Eighteenth Century, History of the Novel, Novel Theory, Gender and Sexuality, Historicism, and American Modernism.