Alexander Manshel

Alexander Manshel
Contact Information
514-398-4400 Ext. 00330
Email address: 
alexander.manshel [at]

Arts 390
Arts Building
853 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, QC H3A 0G5

Faculty Members
Assistant Professor
Specialization by geographical area: 
United States
Specialization by time period: 
Digital Humanities
Genre Studies
History & Theory of the Novel
Identity & Representation
Sociology of Literature
Areas of interest: 

20th and 21st century American literature; multi-ethnic American literature; sociology of literature; literary canon formation; historical fiction; literature and technology.


My research and teaching focus on twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature, multi-ethnic American fiction, and the cultural institutions that organize the contemporary literary field. How do the people and institutions that contribute to the production, circulation, and reception of contemporary literature influence the various forms that it takes? How do they shape our sense of what is considered literary in the first place? These are just some of the questions that motivate my research. My first book, Writing Backwards: Historical Fiction and the Reshaping of the American Canon (Columbia University Press, 2023), provides a new history of contemporary fiction that documents how the politics of historical recovery have fundamentally altered American literature and defined the canonization of writers of color. My other published writing examines the influence of literary prizes on what we read, teach, and study; the divergent representations of technology in more popular and more prestigious fiction; and the impact of new (and newly important) venues for literary experience, such as literary adaptations to television and the digital audiobook. I am currently at work on a second monograph, tentatively titled High School English: A History of American Reading.


M.A., Ph.D. (Stanford University)
M.A. (Bread Loaf School of English)
B.A. (Middlebury College)

Selected publications: 

Articles and Chapters

The Best of the Best: Anthologies, Prizes, and the Short Story Canon.” The Cambridge Companion to the American Short Story. Eds. Michael Collins and Gavin Jones. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023. 62–79.

The Lag: Technology and Fiction in the Twentieth Century.” PMLA (January 2020).

Colson Whitehead’s History of the United States. MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (December 2020).

The Rise of the Recent Historical Novel.” Post45: Peer Reviewed (September 2017).

Reviews and Public Scholarship

"Who Cares About Literary Prizes?" Interview with WNYC's On the Media (December 2023).

What 35 Years of Data Can Tell Us About Who Will Win the National Book Award.” Public Books (November 2023). Co-authored with Melanie Walsh.

The Work of the Audiobook.” Los Angeles Review of Books (May 2023). Co-authored with Laura B. McGrath and J.D. Porter.

"How Historical Novels Can Help Us Remember." Interview with WNYC's On the Media (March 2023).

The Rise of Must-Read TV.” The Atlantic (July 2021). Co-authored with Laura B. McGrath and J.D. Porter.

Who Cares About Literary Prizes?” Public Books (September 2019). Co-authored with Laura B. McGrath and J.D. Porter.

Awards, honours, and fellowships: 
  • Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching, McGill University, 2023.
  • Louis Dudek Award for Excellence in Teaching, McGill University Department of English, 2023.
  • “Race and the Formation of the Contemporary Literary Canon,” SSHRC Insight Development Grant, 2022–2024.
  • “La race et la formation du canon littéraire contemporain,” FRQSC Soutien à la recherche pour la relève professorale, 2022–2025.
Graduate supervision: 

I am eager to supervise graduate students interested in contemporary literature, 20th and 21st century American literature, multi-ethnic American fiction, literary institutions and literary canon formation, historical fiction, and/or literary genre.

Taught previously at: 

Stanford University

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