Kyla Wazana Tompkins

Professor of English; On leave for the 2023-2024 academic year
  • Expertise


    Kyla Wazana Tompkins is a former food writer and restaurant critic. Today, as a scholar of 19th-century U.S. literature with a continuing interest in the relationship between food and culture, she writes about the connections between literature and a wide range of topics: food, eating, sexuality, race, culture, film and dance.

    Her 2012 book, Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the Nineteenth Century, received the 2012 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize from the American Studies Association and tied for the Best Book in Food Studies Award, presented by the Association for the Study of Food and Society.

    Research Interests

    • American Studies
    • Food Studies
    • 19th-Century U.S. Literature
    • Queer and Feminist Theory
    • Political Theory

    Areas of Expertise


    • Cultural Theory
    • American Studies
    • Food Studies
    • 19th-Century U.S. Literature
    • Race and Gender in the 19th-Century
    • Feminist Theory; Gender Theory
    • Race and Gender in the 19th-Century
  • Work



    Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the Nineteenth Century (New York: New York University Press, 2012). Winner, Lora Romero Prize for Best First Book in American Studies, 2013; Winner, Association for the Study of Food and Society Prize for Best Book, 2013.

    Reviewed by: American Quarterly, Journal of American Studies; Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers; TDR: The Drama Review; Journal of American Culture; Children’s Literature Association Quarterly; Food and Foodways; Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture; Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies; Radical Teacher; and Food, Culture and Society.

    Book Series

    Book Series Editor, Ecologies of Consumption: Cultures of Food, Hunger and Appetite (New York University Press, 2012).


    “‘Hearty and Happy and with a Lively, Yeasty Soul’: Feeling Right in Louisa May Alcott’s The Candy Country” (Women and Performance, January 2015)

    “A Forum on Form: Consider the Recipe,” J19: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Literature. Fall 2013. 1.2, pp. 439-445

    “‘She Made the Table A Snare To Them’: Domesticity, Diet and Postcoloniality in the Writings of Sylvester Graham.” Gastronomica. Winter 2009. 9. 1, pp. 50–60.

    “‘Everything ‘Cept Eat Us’: The Black Body as Edible Object in Antebellum U.S. Literature” in Callaloo. Special Issue: Reading Callaloo, Eating Callaloo. 30.1, pp. 201-224

    “Approaches to Teaching Literary Food Studies.” Journal of Food, Culture, and Society. Fall 2005. 8. 2, pp. 243-258.


    “Queer of Color Critique” in Cambridge Companion to Gay and Lesbian American Literature (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015)

    “Eat, Sex, Race.” In Unauthorized States: Nineteenth-Century Literary Studies, Dana Luciano and Ivy Wilson, eds. (New York: New York University Press, 2014)

    “History’s Traces: Personal Narrative, Diaspora, and the Arab-Jew.” Gender, Nation, Belonging: Arab/Arab-American Feminist Perspectives. Evelyn Azeeza Alsultany, Rabab Abdulhadi, Nadine Naber, eds. (Syracuse University Press, 2011)


    “On The Visceral” – 20:4 and 21:1, GLQ: Gay and Lesbian Quarterly, Duke University Press. Double Issue. Durham, North Carolina. Co-editors: Kyla Wazana Tompkins (Pomona College), Sharon Holland (Duke University) and Marcia Ochoa (University of California, Santa Cruz). Written pieces include “Introduction” for both issues, and “Interview with David Findlay” in 21:1.

    Public Writing

    “Shortlist: Five Nineteenth-Century Books.” New York Times Book Review. Forthcoming, 2015.

    Brown Broads, White TV,” Los Angeles Review of Books. March 16, 2015.

    How Does It Feel,” Periscope: The Social Text Blog. Response to Lauren Berlant’s “Cruel Optimism.” 2013.

    Capitalism Eats Itself Alive,” From The Square, the New York University Press blog. August 14, 2012.

    Here in the Twilight,” Avidly. August 12, 2012.

    Against Gluttony,” From The Square, New York University Press. July 30, 2012.

    Eating Laid Bare,” From The Square, New York University Press, April 30, 2012.

  • Education


    Stanford University

    Master of Arts
    Stanford University

    Master of Arts
    University of Toronto

    Bachelor of Arts
    York University

    Recent Courses Taught

    • 19th-Century U.S. Women Writers
    • Herman Melville
    • Literatures of U.S. Imperialism
    • Mark Twain
    • Step Right Up: Popular Literature, Popular Culture, 1865-1917
    • Advanced Feminist and Queer Theory
    • Introduction to Gender and Women's Studies
  • Awards & Honors

    Awards & Honors

    Fellow, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University, 2102-2013

    Visiting Researcher, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University, 2007-2008

    Dorothy M. Steele Sabbatical Award, Pomona College, 2007-2008

    National Endowment for the Humanities Sabbatical Grant, Internal Award, 2007-2008

    Mellon Foundation Faculty Partnership Grant with Professor Amy Bentley of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, New York University.