David Faflik

  • Professor
  • Phone: 401.874.4670
  • Email: faflik@uri.edu
  • Office Location: 308F Swan Hall


A specialist in nineteenth-century American literature and culture, David Faflik emphasizes in his research and teaching the fundamental changes that transformed everyday life in the United States during the decades before the U.S. Civil War. In all his work, Faflik seeks to demonstrate how the literature and culture of the antebellum nation retain a special relevance for us today, as we continue to adjust to the dislocations of thinking, feeling, being, and believing that we associate with the nation’s not-too-distant past.

Faflik’s historically oriented scholarship documents modern America in the making. Working within (and sometimes without) the interpretive traditions of cultural history, book history, and cultural studies, he seeks ways to explain how a variety of early American cultural formations can be “read” as a reflection of the mindsets, desires, and world views of the people who experienced them. To this end, Faflik’s first book, Boarding Out: Inhabiting the American Urban Literary Imagination, 1840-1860 (Northwestern University Press, 2012), examines how one of the most popular sites of domestic residence in the nineteenth century, the metropolitan boardinghouse, provided a material basis for the development of a recognized body of city literature in the West. His second book, Melville and the Question of Meaning
(Routledge, 2018), combines aesthetics and sociolinguistics, archival history and historical theory, political philosophy and film studies to provide a comprehensive guide of the self-conscious complications of meaning that we meet with in the writings of Herman Melville, an author who is eminently concerned with the “meaning” of meaning. In Faflik’s third book, Urban Formalism: The Work
of City Reading (Fordham University Press, 2020), he reprises a recent critical conversation on forms to radically reimagine what it meant to “read” the new urban world that emerged during the middle decades of the nineteenth century, at a time when the city peoples of New York and Paris, in particular, increasingly looked to the experiential patterns, or forms, they discovered all around them in an attempt
to translate their own experience of the big city into something that was more apprehensible. And Faflik’s fourth book, Transcendental Heresies: Harvard and the Modern American Practice of Unbelief (University of Massachusetts Press, 2020), draws on an expansive archive of antebellum records and writings to assess how the collective spiritual questioning of the New England transcendentalists reconstituted the region’s religious sensibilities in the 1830s and 1840s, producing a dynamic and
complex array of beliefs and behaviors that cannot be categorized as either religious or nonreligious.

Faflik’s writings are highly reflexive. They often provide a rigorous historical accounting of modernity’s emergence in “America” even as they interrogate the critical assumptions and methodologies on which any such account has been based. This “meta” dimension of Faflik’s work informs his two most recent book projects. With the first of these, The Literary Gift in Early America (forthcoming Stanford University Press, 2024), Faflik not only attends to a diverse range of practices involving the giving and receiving of print and manuscript “objects” in early America; he attempts to answer as well for the comparative lack of critical attention that’s been paid to literary circulation (as opposed to literary production and reception) in Americanist literary scholarship in recent decades. The ostensible topic of Faflik’s second forthcoming book, That Futebol Feeling: Sport and Play in Brazil’s Heartland (to appear with Temple University Press in 2024), is the game of futebol as it’s played in the interior Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. At the same time, Faflik uses the occasion of his study to question the extent to which play in the form of organized professional sport can and should qualify as a legitimate subject of interest for students of culture, even when it’s not subordinated to the usual analysis of the social dynamics of politics and power that has become the expected standard of “serious” scholarship in the disciplines of cultural studies and literary studies today.


Nineteenth-century American literature and culture, American Renaissance, the city in literature, urban studies, global American Studies, History of the Book, Society and Sport.


  • Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • M.A., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • B.A., University of Texas, Austin

Selected Publications

Reception Histories: The Form of the Gift in American Literature
(forthcoming Stanford University Press, 2024)

Plus Minas: Brazil’s Beautiful Game in Crisis Times
(forthcoming Temple University Press, “Sporting” book series, 2024)

Transcendental Heresies: Harvard and the Modern American Practice of Unbelief
(University of Massachusetts Press, 2020)

Urban Formalism: The Work of City Reading
(Fordham University Press, 2020) / Appears in POLIS: Fordham Series in Urban Studies

Melville and the Question of Meaning (Routledge, 2018)

Boarding Out: Inhabiting the American Urban Literary Imagination, 1840 – 1860
(Northwestern University Press, 2012)

David Faflik, ed. The Physiology of New York Boarding-Houses. By Thomas Butler Gunn (1857; Rutgers University Press, 2009)

Recent Articles and Chapters
“Communitarianism in its Literary Contexts,” in The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Politics, ed. John D. Kerkering (New York: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2023).

“Migrações Literárias no Século XXI,” in the Coleção Desafios Globais book series, Vol. 2: América do Norte, from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) (Belo Horizonte: UFMG Press, 2021), 287–99.

“Critique, Belief, and the Negative Tendencies of New England Transcendentalism,” ESQ: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture 66.3 (2020): 518–32.

“Notes to Reader: Whitman’s Adventures in Metafiction,” Studies in American Fiction 46.1 (Spring 2019): 55–77.

“Antebellum Apathy: A Study of Indifference in Melville,” American Literature 89.3 (Sept. 2017): 529–56.

“Fashion, France, and the Politics of Form,” Arizona Quarterly 73.3 (Autumn 2017): 49–75.

“Melville’s Little Historical Method,” J19: Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists 5.1 (Spring 2017): 51–77.



Recent and Upcoming Courses Taught

English 241: U.S. Literature I, Survey of Early American Literature
English 243: The American Short Story
English 339: Literary Nonfiction, Culture and Criticism: The Essay
English 610: Seminar in Historical Periods (graduate), Nineteenth-Century New England Transcendentalism

Curriculum Vitae