Erin Smith

Professor of American Studies & Literary Studies
Tags: 19th & 20th - Century American Literatures & Cultures History of the Book Gender Studies Popular Culture HUSL 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.


  “Erin A. Smith: Popular Religious Reading, Cultural Identities, and Religious Communities.” University of North Carolina Press Authors’ Blog, 16 June 2015.  2015 - publications
  “Erin A. Smith: What Would Jesus Do?” University of North Carolina Press Authors’ Blog, 14 Apr. 2015.   2015 - publications
What Would Jesus Read?: Scenes of Religious Reading and Writing in 20th-Century America. University of North Carolina Press, 2015.  2015 - Publication
“Kiosksensationer." Brott, Kärlek, Främmande Världar: Texter Om Populärlitteratur (Crime, Love, Alien Worlds: Essays on Popular Literature). Ed. Dag Hedman and Jerry Määttä. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2015. 203-24. Reprinted from Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction. 2015 - publications
Rev. of The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion by Hugh B. Urban. Journal of American History, 102.2 (Sept. 2015): 608-09. 2015 - publications
  “What Would Jesus Read? Americans Are Obsessed With Popular Religious Books Because They Give Us What Organized Religion Can’t.” for What It Means to Be American, a conversation hosted by the Smithsonian and Zócalo Public Square. 15 July 2015. Syndicated in:

“Comfort and joy: Critics have no use for religious best-sellers, but readers find them fulfilling, says Erin Smith.” Dallas Morning News 16 Aug. 2015, 6P.  

“What Would Jesus Read?: The complicated appeal of religious best-sellers.” Houston Chronicle 9 July 2015.   2015 - publications
“’Jesus, My Homeboy’: Teaching Bruce Barton’s Jesus in Twenty-First Century Texas.” Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy 15.1 (spring/summer 2014): 145-51. 2014 - publications
“Class Privilege, Oppression, and the World in the Classroom.” Class and the College Classroom: Essays on Teaching. Ed. Robert C. Rosen. Bloomsbury, 2013. 109-16. Reprinted from Radical Teacher 68 (2003): 23-26.  2013 - publications
Rev. of Emily Dickinson and the Religious Imagination by Linda Freedman, Uncertain Chances: Science, Skepticism, and Belief in Nineteenth-Century American Literature by Maurice Lee, and Secularism in Antebellum America: With Reference to Ghosts, Protestant Subcultures, Machines, and their Metaphors; Featuring Discussion of Mass Media, Moby-Dick, Spirituality, Phrenology, Anthropology, Sing Sing State Penitentiary, and Sex with the New Motive Power by John Lardas Modern. American Literature 85.4 (Dec. 2013): 821-24.  2013 - publications
Rev. of Must Read: Rediscovering American Bestsellers From Charlotte Temple to The Da Vinci Code, ed. by Sarah Churchwell and Thomas Ruys Smith. American Book Review 34.5 (July/Aug. 2013): 15+. 2013 - 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]


“Vera Caspary and Pulp Modernism: Mapping the Mid-Century Literary Landscape.” Modernist Studies Association Annual Meeting. Pittsburgh, PA, 6 Nov. 2014.
“Mapping the Middlebrow in Mystery: The Case of Vera Caspary.” Inventing the Middlebrow Conference. Minneapolis, MN, 27 June 2014.
“Reading the Social Gospel: Literacy for the Common Good.” C19: Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists Biennial Meeting. Chapel Hill, NC, 13 Mar. 2014.
"Reading on the Spiritual Left:, Liberal Religion, and Spiritual Seeking in the 1990s." Reception Study Society Fifth Biannual Conference. Milwaukee, WI, 27 Sept. 2013.
"Vera Caspary: Geographies of the Popular Literary Marketplace in Twentieth-Century America." Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing Annual Meeting. Philadelphia, PA, 20 July 2013.

Additional Information

Professional Service
To the Profession

Editorial Board, Book History, 2018-

Editorial Board, Anthem Studies in Book History, Publishing, and Print Culture, Anthem Press, 2015-

Fellowship Application Reviewer, National Humanities Center, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

Book Review Co-Editor for North America, SHARP News, 2014 - 18

External Evaluator for Promotion to Full Professor, Brigham Young University English Department, 2018

External Evaluator for Tenure, North Carolina State University English Department, 2018

Outside Dissertation Reader, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel

NEH Review Panelist, “Media Projects,” 2017

James Madison University Pulp Studies Symposium Task Force, 2015-16

NEH Summer Stipend Review Panelist, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2015

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing liaison to the American Studies Association, 2008 – 15

Outside member of dissertation committee for Martin Northrop, Fordham University, 2014-15

NEH Reviewer for Fellowship Programs at Independent Research Institutions (FPIRI), 2013

External Evaluator for Tenure, University of Nevada, Reno English Department, 2012

Kluge Fellowship Review Panelist (Library of Congress/NEH), 2011

Fellowship Application Reviewer, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 2009

NEH Review Panelist, “America’s Media Makers,” 2008

NEH Review Panelist, “Humanities Projects in the Media,” 2002

Representative, American Studies Association Women’s Committee, 1999-2002 (Chair 2001-02)

Organizer/Facilitator for the Dallas Area Social History Circle (DASH), 2001-02

Advisory Editor, St. James Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Popular Culture (2000)

Chair, American Studies Association Wise-Susman Prize Committee, 1999 

Manuscript Reviewer for American Quarterly, American Studies, Book History, Gender & Society, Journal of American Studies, Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Information and Culture, Library Quarterly, Modern Language Quarterly, PMLA, Reception, Texas Studies in Language and Literature, Blackwell, Bloomsbury, Oxford University Press, State University of New York Press, Temple University Press, University of Chicago Press, University of Illinois Press, University of Iowa Press, University of Kansas Press, University of Massachusetts Press, University of Virginia Press, University of Wisconsin Press, Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship (NINES) 

To the University

UTD Honors Faculty / McDermott Scholars Faculty Fellow, 2000-

UTD Faculty Mentoring Committee, 2019 -

UTD Budget Committee, 2018-

Chair, School of Interdisciplinary Studies Peer Teaching Evaluation Committee, 2013-

UTD Academic Integrity Committee, 2015- 19 (Chair, 2018-19)

UTD Committee on Diversity and Equity, 2014-18, 2006-2010 (Vice-Chair 2007-08)

Member, Senior Lecturer II Review Committee, Patty Leek, UTD, 2020

Member, Promotion Committee, Meghna Sabharwal (EPPS), 2019

Member, U.S. Women’s / Gender History (A&H) Search Committee, 2018-19

Chair, Senior Lecturer II Review Committee, Kathleen Byrnes, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, UTD, 2019

Member, Senior Lecturer II Review Committee, Angela Mcnulty, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, UTD, 2019

Chair, Search Committee for American Studies Senior Lecturer I, 2018

Member, Senior Lecturer III Review Committee, Tonja Wissinger, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, UTD, 2018

Chair, Senior Lecturer III Review Committee, Jillian Duquaine-Watson, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, UTD, 2017

UTD Strategic Planning Committee, Diversity and Inclusion subcommittee, 2017

Chair, Search Committee for American Studies Lecturers, Environment in America and America in Global Context, 2017

Tenure Review Committee, Xtine Burrough, School of Arts & Technology, 2017

Chair, Search Committee for American Studies Program Head, 2016

University of Texas-Partnership in Advancing Clinical Transition (UT-PACT) Interviewer, 2012-16 

Tenure Review Committee, Shari Goldberg, School of Arts & Humanities, UTD, 2014

Chair, Senior Lecturer II Review Committee, Jillian Duquaine-Watson, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, UTD, 2014

UTD Galerstein Women’s Center Advisory Board, 2005-09

Tenure Review Committee, Sheryl Skaggs, School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences, UTD, 2008

Pre-Tenure Review Committee, Danielle Lavin-Loucks, School of Social Sciences, UTD, 2005

Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC) Interviewer, 2004, 2005

Pre-Tenure Review Committee, Melinda Kane, School of Social Sciences, UTD, 2004

Tenure Review Committee, Adrienne McLean, School of Arts & Humanities, UTD, 2003

Hiring Committee, UTD Women’s Volleyball Coach, 2003

UTD Core Committee for the Support of Women and Minorities, 2000-02

UTD Academic Senate, 2000-01

UTD Committee on Educational Policy, 1998-2000

Planning Committee, 2nd and 3rd Annual North Texas United Nations Conference on the Status of Women, UTD, 1998 and 1999 


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]