Professor, English

306 Andrews Hall
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0333

My work is driven by a fascination with methodology: How do we decide what counts as evidence? How do we move from evidence to argument? The study of literature and its history is one of the most provocative domains in which to explore larger questions about method on the human sciences. How have evidence, literature, and argument changed over time, shaped culture, and created beauty, inequality, or violence? How many hundreds of ways are there to read a book, to make a claim about it? Many of those ways don’t involve even opening a book—and for every method we now have of reading a book (or a newspaper, a screen, a poster, you name it), there is one the past knew that we have lost touch with. I pursue these questions in the fields of early American literature, Native American and Indigenous studies, digital archives, and the history of the book. I've written or edited seven books, including most recently The Silence of the Miskito Prince: How Cultural Dialogue Was Colonized (University of Minnesota Press, 2022).

The emergence of the digital mediation of literary history is one of the most fascinating places to pursue research questions like these. I'm lucky to be the co-director, with Kenneth M. Price and Ed Folsom, of the Walt Whitman Archive. I've led several projects there, including a collaborative effort to track all of the reprints of Whitman’s poetry published during the poet's lifetime; a digital edition of Horace Traubel’s nine-volume biography of the poet; and the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry into Spanish, Álvaro Armando Vasseur’s Walt Whitman: Poemas. In 2020, four co-editors and I published a major update to the Archive's digital edition of Whitman’s marginalia and annotations on other writers’ works.

With Price and Stephanie Browner, I co-edit the Charles W. Chesnutt Archive, a free resource for the study of one of the most important figures in African American literary history.

Matt Cohen