Nicholas Dames

Nicholas Dames

Research Interests


B.A. Washington University (1992); Ph.D. Harvard (1998). Nicholas Dames is a specialist in the history and theory of the novel, with particular attention to the novel in Britain and on the European continent since the early nineteenth century. 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), spans two millennia of textual production, from the scribal practices of early Christianity to the modern novel, in order to show how an ancient editorial technique became an almost inescapable aspect of narrative art and a means to register 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. Alongside scholarly articles, Dames writes frequently on contemporary fiction and the humanities 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.