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Edward Sugden joined King’s in September 2013 after completing his PhD at the University of Oxford. His first book Emergent Worlds will be published by New York University Press in 2018. His work has appeared in journals such as J19 and Leviathan. His work either has or will appear in a number of essay collections including Neither The Time Nor The Place and The New Herman Melville Studies.

Research Interests

  • American literature in the long nineteenth century
  • World-systems analysis and transnational theory
  • Theories of space, time, and history
  • Modernity and its elisions
  • Minoritarian and multilingual America

Edward Sugden’s research combines close reading, political theory, world-systems analysis, and the philosophy of history. In his work, he explores the outer parameters of what feasibly might be included—in a geographical, social, linguistic, and chronological sense—under the rubric of “American literature” and the “19th century”. 

His first book, Emergent Worlds, which will be published on New York University Press in 2018, proposes alternative periodizations, spaces, ideologies, and genres for nineteenth-century American culture in such a way as to displace some of the most tenacious metanarratives of the field. Its central interest is in the “interstice”—those moments in between the systemic transitions in the world-system that inaugurated modernity, say from colony to nation, slavery to freedom, autocracy to democracy. Traversing the Atlantic, Pacific, and Caribbean, it argues that the partial modernity of the century—made particularly visible at sea—mediated the ideological and phenomenological realities of the era. Though the codifying forces of nation, race, and empire soon rendered this alternative modernity invisible, Emergent Worlds contends that the literature of 1850s America not only was shaped by it but, also, archived it with a view to storing it for future generations. This perspective pulls into alignment a previously unnamed series of transnational, multilingual genres that Emergent Worlds terms the immigrant gothic, the Pacific elegy, and the black counterfactual. 

His next project is an exploration of those spaces deemed “off the map” from the colonial period to the early 20th century in the Americas. Covering unexplored regions, mythical places, dreams, hallucinations, spirits, and much more besides, it provides a sociology of the unreal. Creating such a narrative involves a radical reframing of the development of a disciplinary modernity so as to include those spaces, places, and states of mind that elude its categorizing grasp.

In addition to these projects, he has written, or is writing, about representations of Antarctica, the world systemic place of the Marquesas, globalization’s effects on temporal perception, African American song, and a single day in the 1850s.  

He welcomes PhD applications and enquiries from students interested in American literature (broadly construed) of the long nineteenth century. Particular interests include representations of time, space, and history, world-systems theory, opening up the canon to diverse social constituencies and languages, politically conscious takes on the era, formations of socio-political power, and the weirdness and strangeness of nineteenth-century history.

For more details, please see his full research profile.



Edward Sugden teaches American literature, culture, politics, and history from the 15th century to the present day. In his modules, he emphasizes the competing social, linguistic, and formal claims on the adjective “American.” His aim is for his students to read widely inside and outside the canon, to explore a diverse set of historical perspectives, and to recover experiences and accounts of the past that might otherwise have been lost. For an example of this approach, take a look at the “Alternative Americas: The Other Nineteenth Century” module. 

Expertise and public engagement

Edward Sugden is happy to be contacted by representatives from the media. In the past, he has co-organized an outreach afternoon on Herman Melville at the British Library and worked with Philip Hoare and Jessica Sarah Rinland on a film project about whaling in London called “We Account the Whale Immortal.” For a glimpse of this project, have a look here: