Thomas Ruys Smith

Thomas Ruys Smith


  • 2.09 Registry And Council House

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Personal profile


Thomas Ruys Smith is Professor of American Literature and Culture and Deputy Director of Area Studies.

His primary field of research and teaching expertise is nineteenth century literature and culture, both American and Transatlantic. Frequently, his research is focused around the life and culture of the Mississippi River. His first book, River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain (Louisiana State University Press, 2007) was an interdisciplinary examination of the different roles played by the Mississippi in antebellum American culture. His second book, Southern Queen: New Orleans in the Nineteenth Century (Continuum, 2011), was an exploration of the life and culture of one of America's most fascinating cities during a crucible period in its history. His latest monograph, Deep Water: The Mississippi River in the Age of Mark Twain (LSUP: 2019), is the first book to provide a comprehensive narrative account of Twain's intimate and long-lasting creative engagement with the Mississippi. Deep Water also details the thriving cultural life of the river in this period, from roustabouts to canoeists, from books for boys to blues songs, and highlights a diverse collection of voices each telling their own story of the Mississippi and its place in American life.

He is also the editor of a variety of collections and anthologies - most recently, Christmas Past: An Anthology of Seasonal Stories from Nineteenth Century America (Lousiana State University Press, 2021). Other edited works include: Blacklegs, Card Sharps and Confidence Men: Nineteenth-Century Mississippi River Gambling Stories (Louisiana State University Press, 2010); with Prof. Sarah Churchwell, Must Read: Rediscovering American Bestsellers, from Charlotte Temple to The Kite Runner (Continuum, 2012); and with Ross Hair, Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music: America Changed Through Music (Ashgate / Routledge, 2016).  

He is the co-editor, with Rachael McLennan, of the journal Comparative American Studies. He is also the co-editor of New Area Studies with Susan Hodgett. 

At present, he is working on new projects about Walter Scott and the development of American Literature and Mark Twain's relationship to London.

He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


Twitter: @thomasruyssmith

Areas of Expertise

American literature, history and culture (with an emphasis on the 19th century); Mississippi River, history and culture; New Orleans, past and present; American music.