David Wallace

Wolf Humanities Center Faculty Fellow

20212022 Forum on Migration

David Wallace

Judith Rodin Professor of English & Comparative Literature 

David Wallace, a Londoner, has been Judith Rodin Professor of English & Comparative Literature at Penn since 1996; before that he taught at the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas at Austin, and at the Karl-Marx-Universität, Leipzig. He also teaches for the Rosenbach Museum, Philadelphia, and for Penn’s Department of Italian, and is Director-in-Chief of Penn's online journal Bibliotheca Dantesca. A core member of Penn’s Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, he is currently teaching graduate and Fresher courses in premodern women. His Premodern Places (2004, 2006) traces movements of people, free and enslaved, across Mediterranean and then Atlantic spaces. His Europe: A Literary History (2016, 2021) eschews nation-based historiography to trace itineraries of movement across Eurasian space; his current collaborative project, National Epics,studies, complementarily, the cultural mechanisms of nationalism. He lectures for Penn Alumni Travel when travel is possible, and has written for Studi migranti.   

Nationalizing Epics

In Europe: A Literary History, 1348-1418, 2 vols (Oxford University Press, 2016, 2021), I pioneered an itinerary model for literary history, breaking away from the static, nation-based, nineteenth-century historiography that still (amazingly) dominates the field. With 82 collaborators, I remapped European literary history along nine itineraries, following the routes of trade, pilgrimage, disease, crusade, educational travel, migration, and beating the bounds of Dar-al-Islam. My new project, recently contracted with OUP, and developing in association with Penn's Price Lab for Digital Humanities, complements this earlier work by considering the cultural and coercive mechanisms of nationalism. With 85 collaborators from all over the world, Nationalizing Epics asks why nation-state collectivities struggle to embrace the heterogeneity of their own self-nominated epics, their own migrant character.