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David Diamond

Blurred image of the arch used as background for stylistic purposes.
Assistant Professor, English and African American Studies

Dr. David Mark Diamond teaches and writes about eighteenth-century British literature and the early Black Atlantic, with particular emphasis on the role that religion plays in the formation of imperial global imaginaries. His current research examines literary responses to secularization, or the process by which Christian belief came unbound from singular doctrinal orthodoxy and this newly liberalized religion was grafted more and more fully onto the European ambition of racialized planetary domination. 

In his first book, Reading Character After Calvin: Secularization, Empire, and the 18th-Century Novel (University of Virginia Press, 2024), Diamond revises and relates the histories of secularization, imperial race-making, and novelistic character. He argues that the surprising persistence and complexity of two-dimensional characterization in novels from the Restoration to the Romantic era index secularism’s disciplinary valence. Flesh and spirit in need of domestication—errant beliefs and forms of life—manifest through, for example, the instability of allegorical personification or the physiognomic language of Gothic faces. In simultaneity with spiritual excess or insufficiency, corporeal differences of sex and race are made to appear, and the intensifying, biopoliticized violence of empire made to appear justified.

Diamond's current book project, tentatively entitled "Before World Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Eighteenth-Century Literature," reconstructs the literary pre-history of a core principle of modern liberal thought: pluralism. "Before World Religions" surveys eighteenth-century literary explorations of religious coexistence, centering perspectives that Stuart Hall and Ashley Cohen have described as “Black British,” an identity category that is inclusive of diasporan African and South Asian writers and thus bridges two zones of empire. Charles Ignatius Sancho, Olaudah Equiano, and Sake Dean Mahomet, among other writers, model ways of thinking about differences of faith that neither ratify nor fully escape the logics of Christian imperialism. They exemplify a regime still in formation, neither truly open nor constricted into the discipline it would become. Eighteenth-century authors, therefore, offer not only a snapshot of political modernity as it was taking shape but also an opportunity to imagine counterfactual trajectories, dispositions of self and social arrangements that weren't realized in the moment but may be worth recuperating today.




A.B., English and Government & Legal Studies Bowdoin College

A.M., Ph.D., English Language and Literature, University of Chicago

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