Erin Smith

Erin Smith

Professor — American Studies and Literature
Tags: 19th & 20th - Century American Literatures & Cultures History of the Book Gender Studies Popular Culture LIT

Professional Preparation

Ph.D. - Literature and Womens Studies
Duke University - 1997
B.S. - Social Science
Michigan State University - 1991
B.A. - English
Michigan State University - 1991

Research Areas

Research Interests
I am a scholar of American popular literature and a historian of print culture.  My larger intellectual project is to write a more representative American literary history, situating more conventionally literary works in a larger cultural field of printed materials and communities of readers. I am currently working on a book about the reception of American women’s cold-war crime fiction.

My most recent book, What Would Jesus Read?: Popular Religious Books and Everyday Life in Twentieth-Century America (U of North Carolina P, 2015)  examines selected best-selling religious books; the literary, religious, and commercial institutions that make them available to readers; and the communities of readers they help construct in twentieth-century America.  Bringing together scholarship on book history, consumer culture, and lived religion in America, it examines how religion continues to shape what and how we read, even in this secular age.  Fellowships and summer stipends from the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Louisville Institute funded the project.  Related work was published in journals such as American Literary History, Book History, and Canadian Review of American Studies. 

My first book, Hard-Boiled: Working-Class Readers and Pulp Magazines (Temple UP, 2000) was funded in part by a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities and was nominated for an Anthony Award for the best nonfiction book published about mysteries.  It considers American hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and the mostly male, working-class readers who encountered it in pulp magazines and cheap paperbacks.  The project’s methodological innovation is to use a variety of unconventional sources--pulp magazine advertising, the memoirs of writers and publishers, Depression-era studies of adult reading habits, labor history--to reconstruct popular reading practices in the absence of records left by readers themselves.  I demonstrate how this fiction shaped working-class male readers into consumers by selling them what they wanted to hear—stories about embattled, white artisan-heroes who resisted encroaching commodity culture and the consuming women who came with it.  I argue that these readers were active participants in the creation of a working-class variant of consumer culture, a culture most scholars see reflecting the needs of middle-class women.


Rev. of Taking Books to the World: American Publishers and the Cultural Cold War by Amanda Laugesen. American Literary History Online Review XIX.1 (June 2019)  2019 - publications
"Modernism for the Middle Class,” rev. of Cheap Modernism: Expanding Markets, Publishers’ Series and the Avant-Garde by Lise Jaillant. Journal of Modern Literature 42.4 (summer 2019): 196-98 2019 - publications
Rev. of After the Program Era: The Past, Present, and Future of Creative Writing in the University Loren Glass. Sharp News (Aug. 2018)  2018 - publications
Rev. of The Word on the Streets: The American Language of Vernacular Modernism by Brooks E. Hefner. Modern Philology 116.2 (2018): E134-36. 2018 - publications
“Hard-Boiled Faulkner?: Gender, Art, and Commerce in William Faulkner’s Knight’s Gambit.Faulkner and Print Culture: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha 2015.  Ed. Jay Watson, Jaime Harker, and James G Thomas, Jr. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2017. 137-57.  2017 - publications
“Paperbacks and the Literary Marketplace.” American Literature in Transition, 1940-1950. Ed. Christopher Vials. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 291-308. 2017 - publications
Rev. of Nineteenth-Century American Women Write Religion: Lived Theologies and Literature, ed. by Mary McCartin Wearn. Religion and Literature, 49.1 (spring 2017): 225-27.   2017 - publications
Rev. of Bigger than Ben-Hur: The Book, Its Adaptations, and Their Audiences, ed. by Barbara Ryan and Milette Shamir. SHARP News 25.3 (2017)  2017 - publications
“What Would Jesus Read?: The overlooked history of an apocalyptic best-seller.” Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities (Winter 2017): 25-27, 44-45.   2017 - publications
“Seven Questions for Erin A. Smith: What Would Jesus Read?” Sacred Matters: Religious Currents in Culture. 10 Aug. 2016.  2016 - publications


University of Texas at Dallas [2016–Present]
Associate Professor
University of Texas at Dallas [2003–2016]
Assistant Professor
University of Texas at Dallas [1997–2003]
Staff Assistant
Women's Studies, Duke University [1996–1997]
Simone de Beauvoir Named Instructor in Literature
Duke University [1996–1997]
Center for Teaching and Learning, Duke University [1995–1996]
Adult Literacy Tutor
Duke University [1995–1996]
Teaching Assistant
Women's Studies, Duke University [1994–1995]
Veteran Assistant
University Writing Program, Duke University [1994–1995]
English and University Writing Program, Duke University [1994–1995]


School of Interdisciplinary Studies Teaching Award - UT-Dallas [2020]
Nominee, Inclusive Excellence and Intercultural Teaching Award - UT-Dallas [2011]
Best Paper Prize, Religion and American Culture Caucus - American Studies Association [2004]
Anthony Award Finalist (best critical or scholarly work about mysteries) - Bouchercon [2001]
Teacher of the Year, School of General Studies - UT-Dallas [1999]


“Who Didn’t Do It? Genre, Politics, and Reader Responses to Killers of the Flower Moon.” Reception Studies Society Biannual Conference, Provo, UT, 28 Sept. 2019.
“Dangerously Good Women: Female Criminals and the Threat of Male Violence in American Women’s Cold-War Crime Fiction.” Girls! Girls! Girls!: Defining and Deconstructing Domestic Noir. University College, Dublin, 23 Aug. 2019.
“Gender, Nation, and the Literary Field of Post-War American Crime Fiction: The Case of Sisters in Crime.” Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing Annual Meeting. Amherst, MA, 18 July 2019.
“Dorothy Hughes’s The Blackbirder (1943): Thematizing Gender, Crime, and the State.” American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting. Washington, D.C., 8 Mar. 2019.
“Gender, Information, and the State.” Novel Theory: Conference of the Society for Novel Studies. Ithaca, NY, 1 June 2018.

Additional Information


 |  American Studies Association (ASA)
 |  Modern Language Association (MLA)
 |  Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP)

Teaching Interests
 American Literature and Culture
 History of the Book, Reading, and Issues in Print Culture
 Gender Studies and Feminist Theory
 Literary and Cultural Theory
 Popular Culture

Educational Equity Programming / Experience
 Discussion Facilitator. "Respect," GLSEN Greenhill School Teacher Training. Dallas, TX, 22 Aug. 2003.

 Discussion Group Leader. "What Difference Does Difference Make?"  Duke University 1997 Symposium on Diversity. Durham, NC, 28 Feb. - 1 Mar. 1997.

 Discussion Facilitator. "Changing the Scene: Teaching and Learning in Multicultural Classrooms," Duke University.  Durham, NC, 28-29 Mar. 1996.

 Graduate Assistant. "Lessons from the Majority:  Women's Studies for Higher Education," Appalachian State University.  Boone, NC, 6-7 Oct. 1994. 

 Working Group. "Gender, Body, Self," Duke University. Durham, NC, summer 1993. 


Sisters in Crime Research Fellowship
$500 - Sisters in Crime [2017/07–2017/12]
$25,000 - National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC [2002/09–2003/05]
Louisville Institute Summer Stipend
$8,000 - Louisville Institute [2002/07–2002/08]
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend
$5,000 - National Endowment for the Humanities [2002/05–2002/06]
Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities
- Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities [1991/09–1996/05]