Photoii_stephen best_july 2014_new york

Stephen M. Best

Associate Professor
B24 Hearst Annex
by appointment - please email

Professional Statement

Stephen Best is an Associate Professor of English at UC-Berkeley. Professor Best is an alumni of Williams College (B.A., 1989) and the University of Pennsylvania (M.A., 1992; Ph.D., 1997). He is the author ofThe Fugitive's Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession (University of Chicago, 2004), a study of property, poetics, and legal hermeneutics in nineteenth-century American literary and legal culture. Currently, he is working on a new project on rumor, promiscuous speech, and slavery's archive.

Professor Best is a member of the editorial board of the journal Representations. Recently, he co-convened a research group with Saidiya Hartman at the University of California's Humanities Research Institute on "Redress in Law, Literature, and Social Thought" (funded through the Mellon Foundation). His work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Humanities Research Institute (University of California), and the Ford Foundation.



Title Fields
Pic-book1 The Fugitive's Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession
In this study of literature and law before and since the Civil War, Stephen M. Best shows how American conceptions of slavery, property, and the idea of the fugitive were profoundly interconnected. The Fugitive's Properties uncovers a poetics of intangible, personified property emerging out of antebellum laws, circulating through key nineteenth-century works of literature, and informing cul....

Selected Publications and Papers Delivered

"Surface Reading," Representations 108 (Special Issue: The Way We Read Now), Eds. Sharon Marcus and Stephen Best, Fall 2009, 1-21.

“Fugitive Justice,” Representations 92 (Special Issue: Redress), Eds. Stephen Best and Saidiya Hartman, Fall 2005, 1-15. “Best Special Issue for 2006” (first prize), awarded by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.

The Fugitive's Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Recent English Courses Taught