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Photo of Philip Gura, taken by Sarah Boyd

William S. Newman Distinguished Professor

1972, A. B., American History and Literature, Harvard College

1977, Ph. D. History of American Civilization, Harvard University


I view myself as a literary and cultural historian. I have published widely in American literature from its beginnings through the 1870; American intellectual and cultural history through the same periods; early American religious history; and nineteenth century-American music history. For a decade I served as the editor of Early American Literature and was on the editorial board of the multi-volume History of the Book in America. I hold a joint appointment in the Department of American Studies and an Adjunct Professorship in Religious Studies.

To read more, visit my website


  • A Glimpse of Sion’s Glory: Puritan Radicalism in America, 1620-1660 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1984.
  • America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the 19th Century (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1999).
  • Jonathan Edwards: America’s Evangelical ((NY: Hill and Wang, 2005).
  • American Transcendentalism: A History (NY: Hill and Wang, 2007).
  • The American Antiquarian Society, 1812-2012: A Bicentennial History (Worcester, MA: AAS, 2012).
  • Truth’s Ragged Edge: The Rise of the American Novel (NY: Farar, Straus and Giroux, 2013).
  • A Life of William Apess, Pequot (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2015).
  • Man’s Better Angels: Romantic Reformers and the Coming of the Civil War (Cambridge: Harvard UP 2017).

Teaching Awards

  • University Post-Baccalaureate Distinguished Teaching Award, University of North Carolina, 2004.


  • Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecturer, University of Kansas, November, 2015.
  • Distinguished Scholar, Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Convocation, 2013.
  • Distinguished Scholar Award, Division on American Literature to 1800 of the Modern Language Association, 2008.
  • National Book Critics Circle finalist (nonfiction) 2008.
  • Washington Post, Best Books of 2008 (for American Transcendentalism).
  • Fellow, Society of American Historians (elected 2008).
  • Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence, American Antiquarian Society, 2006-07.James Russell Wiggins Lecturer, American Antiquarian Society, 2004
  • ASCAP-Deems Taylor Special Citation, for America’s Instrument, 2000.
  • Award of Merit, Society of Early Americanists, 2000.
  • Association of Graduate English Students MA Mentoring Award, 2000.
  • Kate B. and Hall J. Peterson Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, 1999.
  • Corresponding Member, Massachusetts Historical Society (elected), 1996.
  • Frances Densmore Prize, 1996, awarded by American Musical Instrument Society.
  • National Council, Institute of Early American History and Culture (elected), 1991-1994.
  • Kate B. and Hall J. Peterson Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, 1989.
  • Member, American Antiquarian Society, elected 1988.
  • Senior Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, VA, 1985-86.
  • Faculty Fellowship, Council on Research and Creative Work, University of Colorado, 1985-86.
  • Chancellor’s Writing Award, University of Colorado, 1985.
  • Member, Colonial Society of Massachusetts, elected 1985.
  • Fellow, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University, 1980-81.
  • Norman Foerster Prize in American Literature, awarded by the Modern Language Association, 1977.

Courses Taught:

  • English 128, Major American Authors
  • English 343, Survey of American Literature to 1860.
  • English 347, American Novel
  • English 443, Topics in American Literature to 1900.
  • English 843, Topics in American Literature to 1900 (American Novel, Transcendentalism, Early American Literature).


Curriculum Vitae / Resume