Max Cavitch

Max  Cavitch

Associate Professor, English

Early America


I joined Penn's faculty in 1999, after receiving my B.A. from Yale and my Ph.D. from Rutgers.  My primary field is American literature, and I teach courses in all of its forms and phases, from the beginnings of English contact and settlement to the present day.  My first book, published in 2007, is American Elegy: The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman.  I have also published numerous articles on early American topics, including print culture; African-American poetry and prosody; aesthetics and free verse in Stephen Crane; Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty; literature and the U.S. Constitution; Emily Dickinson and exceptionality; Whitman and the erotics of poetic address; and early American portraiture.  I'm currently working on another book on early American literature, called "Mad Poet of Philadelphia: Towards a New Literary Psychohistory."

My interest in literary genres carries over to the other book I'm currently writing, which is a comprehensive study of autobiographical writing, called "Passing Resemblances: A Critical Inventory of Autobiography."

I also spend a good deal of time working on cinema, and I've published articles on films by François Ozon, Jean Cocteau, and Michael Lucas.  Forthcoming articles explore the experimental film-work of Patti Smith; gender in Jean-Luc Godard; translation and mourning in a film collaboration by Safaa Fathy and Jacques Derrida; and Gus Van Sant's use of the long take.

My work in these and other fields, including psychoanalytic theory and gender and sexuality studies, extends from teaching and research to a variety of institutional roles at Penn and elsewhere: co-editor of the book series Early American Studies (University of Pennsylvania Press); member of the Advisory and Executive Councils of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies; consortium member of the Project on Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy; member of the collaboration committee of the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania Department of Psychiatry; and one of the founding faculty members of Penn's undergraduate program in Psychoanalytic Studies. I also edit and contribute to the blog "Psyche on Campus."

In these various pursuits, I have been the grateful recipient of fellowships and grants from the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati, the Penn Humanities Forum, Cornell's Society for the Humanities, Penn’s Provost’s Interdisciplinary Arts Fund, the Austen Riggs Center, and the Wesleyan Animal Studies Summer Institute.


Ph.D. Rutgers University

B.A. Yale University

Research Interests

19th-Century American Literature, 19th-Century British Literature, 20th-Century American Literature, African American and Ethnic American Literatures, Early American Literature, African American Studies, Animal Studies, Cinema and Media Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Poetry and Poetics, Psychoanalytic Studies, Transatlantic Studies