Hannah Manshel


Research areas:

American literature before 1900, African-American literature, legal studies


Jennifer Doyle (chair), Emma Stapely, David Lloyd

Research interests:

My dissertation, “The Freedom of a Broken Law: Antinomianism and Abolition in American Literature” envisages an unconventional history of antinomianism, the belief that civil law is nullified by the assurance of God’s grace, to offer a new way of conceptualizing the American literary tradition from 1630 to the 1860s. Antinomianism reconfigures this tradition to show how it is animated by the spiritual and theological practices of radical abolition. I track antinomianism’s appearance as a mode of resistance to law available to enslaved and Indigenous people subject to law’s violence, but not entitled to its protection, and also as a raced and gendered threat to hegemonic white legal order. By de-activating law and turning instead to grace, antinomianism can suspend civil law’s constitutive violence. Through analyses of writing by Puritans, white nineteenth century authors, and black feminist and Indigenous dissenters, this dissertation shows how law-nullifying spiritual practices offer a loophole through which legal non-persons can provisionally practice liberation. Because antinomianism does not rely upon direct opposition, it is a productive term through which to theorize modes of resistance available to those for whom agentive rebellion is not available.

Peer Reviewed Publications:

“The Desire for Fact: Anti-Racist Ethics in Discourses of Sexual Violence,” forthcoming in Criticism

“Breathing Material: Cassils and Xandra Ibarra in Los Angeles,” Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory27:1 (February 2017), 137-141.

Awards and Honors:

Humanities Graduate Research Grant, Center for Ideas and Society, UC Riverside (February 2018)

UC Humanities Research Institute Dissertation Support Grant (January 2018)

Outstanding Teaching Award, UC Riverside (May 2017)

Emory Elliot Award for an Essay in American Literature (June 2016)

Conference Sessions Organized:

Unforming Feeling Seminar (co-organized with Daniel Benjamin and Judith Goldman), American Comparative Literature Association, Cambridge, MA (March 2016)

Selected Presentations:

“Conjuring Freedom: Marronage and the Spirits in Daughters of the Dust,” American Comparative Literature Association, Los Angeles, CA (March 2018)

“Altogether without form: Antinomianism and Black Rebelliousness on Providence Island,” Society of Early Americanists conference on Religion and Politics, St. Louis, MO (March 2018)

“The Black Pearl: Teaching a Black Feminist Reading of The Scarlet Letter,” PAMLA, Honolulu, HI (November 2017)

“The Desire for Fact: Practicing Narrative Resistance to Sexual Violence,” American Comparative Literature Association, Cambridge, MA (March 2016)