Programs & Events

American Protest Literature: Thomas Paine to the Present, June 30–July 6, 2019


John Stauffer, Sumner R. and Marshall S. Kates Professor of English and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University


This interdisciplinary seminar examines the rich tradition of protest literature in the United States from the American Revolution to the present. We focus on “literature,” broadly construed, that critiques society, suggests a solution to its ills, and functions as a catalyst, guide, or mirror of social change. Using a wide variety of primary sources, we explore the historical links between forms of protest, uses of literature, and social change. We pay particular attention to the ways in which protest literature functions as rhetorical, political, and aesthetic texts within specific cultural contexts.

Travel & Accommodations

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements; the Institute will reimburse up to $400 in travel expenses. Read the policy here.

This seminar will be located at Boston University. The closest airport to is Logan Airport. A taxi from Logan Airport to Boston University will be approximately $35 (includes a 15% tip). The MBTA Green Line “B” train passes through Boston University, where you will use the “Boston University East” stop. The Boston University directions and parking page has driving directions. Please note that parking on campus is extremely limited. Use of public transportation to the university is recommended when possible.

Participants will stay in an on-campus dormitory in single bedrooms but may share bathrooms and common space.

The college provides pillows, blankets, sheets, and towels only. Participants should plan to bring alarm clocks, hangers, irons, and hair dryers. Participants should bring laptops as computer access on campus will be limited.


Meals will be served in a cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.


Please be sure to review the Institute’s policies on independent school teacher participation and travel reimbursement before applying.

Course Reviews from Past Participants

“This seminar was amazing. Professor Stauffer was phenomenal. He shared so much valuable knowledge and put it in context, was very generous with his time and attention, and was a fantastic teacher.”

“Wow; what an incredible experience this was! I engaged in the protest literature seminar at Harvard University. Professor Stauffer was extremely knowledge and passionate. In addition, he was extremely committed to ensuring we learned. His lectures were well prepared and engaging.”


Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.

Seminar Year: 2018-2019