Life and Career
David S. Reynolds was born in Providence, Rhode Island and grew up in nearby West Barrington. During much of his childhood, the family home was the historic Nayatt Point Lighthouse on Narragansett Bay. Reynolds attended the Providence Country Day School, where he later taught for a year after his graduation from college. He received the B.A. magna cum laude from Amherst College and the Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He has taught American literature and American Studies at Northwestern University, Barnard College, New York University, Rutgers University, Baruch College, the Sorbonne-Paris III, and, since 2006, at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
Reynolds is the author or editor of fifteen books. He is the winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Christian Gauss Award, the Ambassador Book Award, the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, John Hope Franklin Prize (Honorable Mention), and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has been interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” “Weekend Edition,” “The Diane Rehm Show,” ABC’s “The John Batchelor Show,” C-SPAN’s “After Words,” Brian Lamb’s “Book Notes,” “Book TV,” John Hockeberry’s “The Takeaway,” and “The Leonard Lopate Show.” He is a regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review. He is included in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, and Who’s Who in American Education.
In the field of criticism, Reynolds argues that America’s classic literature is defined by its radical openness to biographical, political, social, and cultural images, which are interwoven in such symbols as Melville’s white whale, Hawthorne’s scarlet letter, Poe’s raven, and Whitman’s grass leaves. In biography, Reynolds places figures like Whitman and John Brown in their era, showing how their thoughts and motivations were shaped by the religious, political, and social forces around them. Reynolds also brings attention to numerous long-neglected noncanonical authors. In the field of history, Reynolds highlights the importance of culture. Enforcing Lincoln’s view that “He who molds public sentiment is greater than he who makes statutes,” Reynolds reveals the importance of influential outliers—including Whitman, Stowe, Brown, and others–who have altered public opinion and thus have had a profound impact on many aspects of American life.
Ancestry and Family
Reynolds’s ancestors include nineteen passengers on the Mayflower as well other early-New England settlers and several who served in the American Revolution.
Reynolds’s Mayflower ancestors include John Alden, Priscilla Alden, William Mullins, Alice Mullins, William Brewster, Mary Brewster, Love Brewster, Richard Warren, Francis Cooke, John Howland, John Tilley, Joan Tilley, Elizabeth Tilley, Edward Doty, Stephen Hopkins, Elizabeth Fisher Hopkins, William White, Susanna White, and Peregrine White.
Among other ancestors of Reynolds are founding settlers of Rhode Island (including Roger Williams, William Arnold, Samuel Gorton, William Carpenter, Richard Waterman, John Greene, Samuel Wilbore, John Porter, and Thomas Hopkins), Massachusetts (George Morton of Plymouth, Roger Conant of Salem, Tristram Coffin and Christopher Hussey of Nantucket, and William Barstow of Dedham and Scituate), and Connecticut (Isaac Willey and Joseph Judson). Among Reynolds’s ancestors who fought in the American Revolution are Perry Averill, Solomon Churchill, and Thomas Bartlett.
Reynolds’s wife, whose professional name is Suzanne Nalbantian, is a professor of comparative literature at Long Island University who specializes in the interdisciplinary relationship between literature and neuroscience. Her books include Memory in Literature From Rousseau to Neuroscience, The Memory Process: Neuroscientific and Humanistic Perspectives (coedited with Paul M. Matthews and James B. McClelland), and Aesthetic Autobiography: From Life to Art in Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Anais Nin.
Distinguished Professor David S. Reynolds
Ph.D. Program in English
CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016