Paul Downes

Professor of English and American Literature; Graduate Faculty; Undergraduate Faculty
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 731, 170 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2M8


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • American literature
  • 18th-Century Literature
  • Aspects of Theory.


Paul Downes is Professor of English and American Literature in the Department of English at the University of Toronto, specializing in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American literature and in the relationship between literature and political philosophy. He is the author of Democracy, Revolution and Monarchism in Early American Literature (Cambridge, 2002) and Hobbes, Sovereignty and Early American Literature (Cambridge, 2015). He is currently writing on the politics and aesthetics of protection from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries.


"Like A Prayer: Petitioning in Revolutionary America." Cambridge Companion to Early American Literature. Ed. Bryce Traister (Forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, 2020).

"From Lima to Attica: Benito Cereno, the Nixon Recordings and the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971." Handsomely Done: Aesthetics, Politics and Media After Melville, ed. Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2019.

"Oracular Ventriloquism: Political Theology in The Female American." Political Theology 19.7 (2018): 621-28.

"Sovereignty and Grace: Hobbes and the Puritans," in American Literature and the New Puritan Studies, ed. Bryce Traister (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017): 23-37.

"Melville's Leviathan" in Melville's Philosophies, eds. Branka Arsić and K.L. Evans (London: Bloomsbury, 2017): 315-36.

Hobbes, Sovereignty and Early American Literature, Cambridge UP, 2015.

Review of Greg Grandin’s Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom and Deception in the New World in Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, 17.1 (2015): 85-91.

“Does the Declaration of Independence Declare a State of Emergency?” Canadian Review of American Studies 42.1 (2012): 7-20.

“Eighty-Nine Divided by Seventy-Six.” (Review Essay) American Literary History 23.1 (2011): 83-101.

“Homeland Insecurity.” (Review Essay) Early American Literature (2010): 699-713.

“Democratic Terror in ‘My Kinsman, Major Molineux’ and ‘The Man of the Crowd.’ Poe Studies 37 (2004): 31-35.

"Humanitarian Intervention and Melville's Benito Cereno," South Atlantic Quarterly 103:2/3 (2004): 465-488.

"Fiction and Democracy," in Blackwell Companion to American Fiction, 1780-1865, (2004): 20-30.

"The Library of America's American Revolution," (review essay) Early American Literature 38.1 (2003): 161-70.

Democracy, Revolution and Monarchism in Early American Literature, Cambridge UP, 2002. (Published in paperback, 2009)

"Nineteenth-Century American Fiction," in The Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century, Vol. 1. Ed., Paul Finkelman. New York: Scribners, 2002.

"Constitutional Secrets: Memoirs of Carwin and the Politics of Concealment," Criticism 39.1 (1997): 89-117. (Reprinted in Norton Critical Edition of Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin by Charles Brockden Brown, New York: W.W. Norton, 2011.)

"Sleep-Walking Out of the Revolution: Brockden Brown's Edgar Huntly," Eighteenth-Century Studies 29.4 (1996): 413-31.


BA, York University
PhD, Cornell University