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Sal Nicolazzo

Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania)

Associate Professor
Director of Doctoral Studies

Primary Office: 6th College Bldg 1/Ridge Walk
                           Room 287
Primary Phone: Contact Department
Quarterly Office Hours


Teaching and Research Interests:

I specialize in eighteenth-century British and transatlantic literature, with particular focus on law and literature, empire, gender/sexuality studies, the history of racial capitalism. I teach a wide range of classes in Restoration, eighteenth-century, and Romantic-period British literature—generally with a focus on nation and empire—as well as courses on law and literature, gender/sexuality studies, and critical theory.

My first book, Vagrant Figures: Law, Literature, and the Origins of the Police, was recently published by Yale University Press. Vagrant Figures reveals the narrative, textual, and rhetorical practices that shaped the purview and scope of policing in the Anglo-American legal sphere long before the establishment of the modern metropolitan police force. Taking up case studies spanning rural and urban Britain, the Caribbean, North America, and the transnational labor regimes of the East India Company, Vagrant Figures argues for the importance of form, figure, and trope to the history of policing, and argues that an expansive legal and literary archive can reveal the racial and colonial logics of police legitimacy as it was actively built, tested out, debated, and resisted.

I am currently in the early stages of research on a new project on risk, property, and speculation as eighteenth-century colonial forms of future-orientation. Juxtaposing legal phenomena such as maritime insurance, private policing, and land speculation with the literary registers of temporality, including verb tense, novelistic experiments in cause and effect, and poetic expansions of time and space such as the locodescriptive prospect, this new project asks how an expansive and interdisciplinary account of the origins of financialized risk might shed light on how eighteenth-century material, legal, figurative, and imaginative practices made some of the colonial futures we inhabit—and how we might dismantle them in the present.

I advise PhD students across a wide range of fields, including law and literature, gender/sexuality studies, early modern through nineteenth-century British literature, early American literature, and comparative/transnational approaches to empire. I am particularly interested in training PhD students who seek to approach the long eighteenth century from comparative, interdisciplinary, and nontraditional perspectives.


Vagrant Figures: Law, Literature, and the Origins of the Police (2021), Yale University Press.


“Another 1987, or, Whiteness and Eighteenth-Century Studies,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 33.2 (2020-21), 233-248.

“Lyric Without Subjects and Law Without Persons: Vagrancy, Police Power, and the Lyrical Tales,” Criticism 60.2 (2018): 149-170.

"Henry Fielding's The Female Husband and the Sexuality of Vagrancy," The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 55.4 (2014): 335-353. (published under the name Sarah Nicolazzo)

"Reading Clarissa's 'Conditional Liking:' A Queer Philology," Modern Philology 112.1 (2014): 205-225. (published under the name Sarah Nicolazzo)

Selected Courses:

Introduction to British Literature, 1660-1832 (lower-division survey)
Empire of Taste: Food, Culture, and Consumption in the British Empire
Law and Literature: Equal Before the Law?
Romantic Poetry
What is a Novel?
The Future of Queer/Trans History
The World of Jane Austen
Transatlantic Abolitionism
Literature & Empire, 1500-1800
The Biopolitical Enlightenment (graduate seminar)
Race, Empire, and Enlightenment (graduate seminar)
Law and Literature (graduate seminar)