Robert Milder

​Professor of English
PhD, Harvard University
research interests:
  • 19th-century American literature (especially American Renaissance)
  • 20th-century American literature
  • Virginia Woolf
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    • Washington University
    • CB 1122
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    ​Professor Milder has published widely on mid-19th century American writers. His primary teaching interests are the American Renaissance and the literature of New England, but he also offers courses in Anglo-American Romanticism, 20th century American literature, and Virginia Woolf and Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group.

    Professor Milder has published widely on mid-19th Century American writers. He is the author of Reimagining Thoreau (1995), Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine (2006), and Hawthorne’s Habitations: A Literary Life (2013), and co-editor, with Randall Fuller, of The Business of Reflection: Hawthorne in His Notebooks (2009). Essays and chapters of his have appeared in The New England QuarterlyAmerican Literary HistoryArizona Quarterly, Studies in the Novel, ESQThe Cambridge Companion to American NovelistsThe Cambridge Companion to MelvilleThe Cambridge Companion to Emerson, and The Oxford Historical Guide to Herman Melville. Recent writings include published essays on John Updike, Philip Roth, and Alice Munro and two books-in-progress, Emerson and the Fortunes of Godless Religion and “Real Life”: John Updike and Alice Munro. Primary teaching interests are 19th century American literature, autobiography, and autobiographical fiction.  


    • L14 312W The Literature of Memory 
    • L14 3524 Self, Sex, and Society in 19th Century American Literature
    • L14 356 Art of the Novel
    • L14 426 The American Renaissance: Emerson through Emily Dickinson
    • L14 462 Becoming Modern: Virginia Woolf and Her Circle
    • L14 483 Selected American Writers: Melville
    • L14 5231 Seminar in American Lit: Transcendentalism
    Reimagining Thoreau

    Reimagining Thoreau

    Reimagining Thoreau synthesizes the interests of the intellectual and psychological biographer and the literary critic in a reconsideration of Thoreau's literary career. The aims of the book are, first, to situate Thoreau's aims and achievements as a writer within the context of his troubled relationship to the microcosm of antebellum Concord; second, to reinterpret Walden as a temporally layered text in light of the successive drafts of the book and the evidence of Thoreau's journals and contemporaneous writings; and third, to overturn traditional views of Thoreau's "decline" by offering a new estimate of the post-Walden writing and its place within his development.

    Hawthorne's Habitations: A Literary Life

    Hawthorne's Habitations: A Literary Life

    The first literary/biographical study of Hawthorne's full career in almost forty years, Hawthorne's Habitations presents a self-divided man and writer strongly attracted to reality for its own sake and remarkably adept at rendering it yet fearful of the nothingness he intuited at its heart.

    Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine

    Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine

    Exiled Royalties is a literary/biographical study of the course of Melville's career from his experience in Polynesia through his retirement from the New York Custom House and his composition of three late volumes of poetry and Billy Budd, Sailor. Conceived separately but narratively and thematically intertwined, the ten essays in the book are rooted in a belief that "Melville's work," as Charles Olson said, "must be left in his own 'life,'" which for Milder means primarily his spiritual, psychological, and vocational life. Four of the ten essays deal with Melville's life and work after his novelistic career ended with the The Confidence-Man in 1857. The range of issues addressed in the essays includes Melville's attitudes toward society, history, and politics, from broad ideas about democracy and the course of Western civilization to responses to particular events like the Astor Place Riots and the Civil War; his feeling about sexuality and, throughout the book, about religion; his relationship to past and present writers, especially to the phases of Euro-American Romanticism, post-Romanticism, and nascent Modernism; his relationship to his wife, Lizzie, to Hawthorne, and to his father, all of whom figured in the crisis that made for Pierre. The title essay, "Exiled Royalties," takes its origin from Ishmael's account of "the larger, darker, deeper part of Ahab"--Melville's mythic projection of a "larger, darker, deeper part" of himself. How to live nobly in spiritual exile--to be godlike in the perceptible absence of God--was a lifelong preoccupation for Melville, who, in lieu of positive belief, transposed the drama of his spiritual life to literature. The ways in which this impulse expressed itself through Melville's forty-five year career, interweaving itself with his personal life and the life of the nation and shaping both the matter and manner of his work, is the unifying subject of Exiled Royalties.