Nicholas Dames

Nicholas Dames

Research Interests


B.A. Washington University (1992); Ph.D. Harvard (1998). Nicholas Dames writes and teaches on the history and theory of the novel, with particular attention to the novel in Britain and on the European continent from the early nineteenth century to the present. His scholarship and public-facing criticism are primarily directed toward questions of temporality in fictional form, the novel’s place in the history of reading, and the political and aesthetic afterlives of realist fiction since WWII. 

His most recent book, The Chapter: A Segmented History from Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton, 2023)— a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and winner of the PROSE Award in Literature from the Association of American Publishers— spans two millennia of textual production to demonstrate how an editorial technique from antiquity became the primary means by which the novel, from Sterne, Austen, and Goethe to Krasznahorkai, has registered the shape of experience in time. He is also the author of The Physiology of the Novel: Reading, Neural Science, and the Form of Victorian Fiction (Oxford, 2007), and Amnesiac Selves: Nostalgia, Forgetting, and British Fiction, 1810-1870 (Oxford, 2001), which was awarded the Sonya Rudikoff Prize by the Northeast Victorian Studies Association. 

Dames writes frequently on the contemporary novel and the condition of criticism for The Atlantic, n+1, The Nation, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, New Left Review, and Public Books, where he has been co-Editor in Chief since 2020. In 2021, he hosted a podcast mini-series for Public Books called “The Novel Now,” which staged conversations between novelists and scholars. With Jenny Davidson, he is co-editor of the “Rereadings” book series at Columbia University Press. 

Dames has been a recipient of Columbia's Presidential Teaching Award (2005), a Charles Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (2005-6), the Lenfest Distinguished Faculty Award (2008), and the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching (2013). In 2009 he served as Chair of the MLA's Executive Division on Prose Fiction, and from 2011-2014 he was Chair of the Department of English and Comparative Literature.