Robert Aguirre

Faculty Profile

Senior Associate Dean

Secondary Title

Senior Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


313 577 2094


Department of English, 5057 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202 


Robert D. Aguirre specializes in nineteenth-century British and American literature, with a special interest in how these traditions intersect with Latin American history and culture.  He has also published on trans-Atlantic and hemispheric methodologies, empire, material culture, and U.S. Latino/a literature. 

Informal Empire: Mexico and Central America in Victorian Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 2005) examines the cultural forms of imperialism that structured Britain's relationship to the Americas. It tracks the history of those artifacts from Mexico and Central America that stirred Victorian interest—a history that reveals how such objects and the cultures they embodied were incorporated into museum collections, panoramas, anthropological displays, adventure novels, and records of imperial administrators.

Mobility and Modernity: Panama in the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American Imagination (Ohio State University Press, 2017) rewrites the history of the Panama Canal, assessing for the first time the literary culture of the preceding decades. In this period, U.S. and British writers and visual artists developed sophisticated languages of mobility, time, and speed to cast the isthmus as an in-between place, a point of connection to more important destinations.  Offering bold new interpretations of Anthony Trollope, John Lloyd Stephens, and Eadweard Muybridge, among others, Mobility and Modernity shows how Panama became defined as a site of incipient globalization and a crucial link of empire. 

As associate dean, Professor Aguirre's portfolio is focused on undergraduate education, retention and graduation, curriculum design, technology, advising, and orientation.  He also has oversight for academic staff in the college, program assessment, and college teaching awards, and assists the dean in budget advisory and fundraising.

Selected Publications

Mobility and Modernity: Panama in the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American Imagination (The Ohio State University Press, 2017). 
Informal Empire: Mexico and Central America in Victorian Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 2005). 
“Trollope and the Americas,” forthcoming in New Essays on Anthony Trollope, ed. Frederick Van Dam, et al.  (Oxford University Press, 2017).
“Victorian Literature and Latin America,” in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Victorian Literatures, ed. Dino Franco Felluga et al. (2015).
“’Affairs of State’: Mobilities, Communication, and Race in Trollope’s The West Indies and the Spanish Main,” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 37.1 (2015): 1-20.
“The Work of Archaeology: The Maudslays in Late Nineteenth-century Guatemala,” in Entangled Knowledges: Scientific Discourses and Cultural Difference, ed. Klaus Hock and Gesa Mackenthun (Münster and New York: Waxmann, 2012), 229-246.
“Mexico, Independence, and Trans-Atlantic Exchange, 1822-24,” in BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History, ed. Dino Franco Felluga, extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. Web. [accessed 9/20/2012]. 
 “Behind the Gallery Doors,” Publications of the Modern Language Association, 125.1 (2010), 129-133.
“Frederick Catherwood,” Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
“Agencies of the Letter: The British Museum, the Foreign Office, and the Ruins of Central America,” Victorian Studies 46.2 (2004): 285-96.
“Exhibiting Degeneracy: The Aztec Children and the Ruins of Race,” Victorian Review 29.2 (2003): 40-63. 
“Annihilating the Distance: Panoramas and the Conquest of Mexico, 1822-1848,” Genre: Forms of Discourse 35.1 (2002): 25-54.
“Cold Print: Professing Authorship in Trollope’s An Autobiography,” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 25.4 (2002): 569-593. 


Courses taught

  • ENGLISH 3100, Introduction to Literary Studies, Fall 2017
  • ENGLISH 2120, Introduction to Fiction, Winter 2016
  • ENGLISH 7023, Studies in Victorian Literature and Culture (graduate seminar), Fall 2016

Undergraduate courses have included: Victorian Literature; Victorian Novel; British Literature since 1700; Recent World Literature in English; The Victorians and Latin America; Latino/a literature; Imagining America from Columbus to Jamaica Kincaid; Anglo-American Travelers to Latin America; Theorizing Museums; The Bildungsroman; Victorian Autobiography.

Graduate seminars have included: Victdorian Literature and Empire; The Hemispheric Turn in American Studies; Transatlanticism; New World Encounters; Victorian Travelers; Race and the Victorian Novel; Victorian Narratives/Post-modern Discourses; Victorian Autobiography


Research Description

Nineteenth-century British and American literature and culture; autobiography; museum studies; pre-Columbian culture; Atlantic studies; hemispheric studies.

Current project: A study of the history of British and American writing and pictorial imaging of the area now known as the Panama Canal. Before the Canal examines the history and literature of the place in the immediate aftermath of the gold rush in 1849, when thousands of miners and travelers flocked to the isthmus seeking a quick passage to California instead of taking the long route around Cape Horn. The project deals with the history of travel, US history, poetry, letter writing, and transportation and globalization.

Project Duration: 4/01/2014 - 4/01/2015

Desired number of student researchers: 1-2

Expected duration of student commitment: One semester

Expected weekly time commitment of undergraduate researcher: Between 2 and 5 hours per week

Description to tasks to be completed by undergraduate student researcher: Conduct library research using electronic databases; locate primary materials in archives and libraries beyond Detroit, using specialized finding aids; summarize articles and book chapters; develop annotated bibliographies.
Required skills, coursework, or experience: Basic familiarity with the WSU library; experience using MS Word; good writing and oral communication skills; good organization skills; analytic and curious mind.
Other important information: This is a humanities project, but social scientists and/or students with a strong interest in history and language are welcome, whatever their major. You will learn valuable research skills that will serve you well no matter what you plan to study or do.

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