Regular Faculty

Kirsten Silva Gruesz
  • Title
    • Professor
  • Division Humanities Division, Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Literature Department
    • Oakes College
  • Affiliations Latin American & Latino Studies, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Dolores Huerta Research Center for the Americas
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Fax
  • Office Location
    • Humanities Building 1, 636
  • Office Hours Spring 2024: in person Thursdays 11:30-1; remote by Zoom Mondays 11-12. Please email me for the Zoom link (current students may access through Canvas)
  • Mail Stop Humanities Academic Services
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Latino/a Studies; American Studies; Print Media; Bilingualism, Multilingualism; Critical Race and Ethnic Studies; Chicana/o Studies; California History
  • Courses LIT 165A, Chicanx/Mexican American Literature; HUM 35, Language Technology: Themes across Cultures and Histories; LIT 102, Translation Theory; LIT 145, Colonial American Literatures; LIT 80N, Latino Expressions in the US; LIT 190, Senior Seminar: Moby Dick and Its Avatars; LIT 120, Latinx Poetry; LIT 165B, Latinx Fictions of the Americas

Summary of Expertise

  • Hemispheric studies of the Americas
  • Contemporary Chicanx/Latinx cultural studies
  • 16th-19th century American histories and literatures
  • History of the book and print culture
  • Bi- and translingualism
  • Translation studies

Research Interests

For a sample of my published works, please see the "Publications" column.  Current works in progress include:

  • Un matrimonio como hay muchos / A Marriage Like Many Others: scholarly edition and translation of what may be the first Latino novel, serially published in Spanish in New Orleans in 1849 by E.J. Gomez
  • A series of articles on Spanish-language print culture in early California
  • A co-authored article on the late writer H.G. Carrillo
  • An article on the sentimentalization of the migrant mother, from Uncle Tom's Cabin to American Dirt
  • An article on Juan Felipe Herrera's poem "Borderbus" and Felicia Rice's art book of it

 I am also collaborating, with ten other feminist scholars in Black/Indigenous/Latinx history, on a radical textbook to be titled Archival Fragments, Experimental Methods.

Biography, Education and Training

My broad zone of interest is the Americas, both before and after the fateful Indigenous-European contact of 1492. I study how written language conveys and confers power in the world. Sometimes that power shows up within a frame that people call “literature” (its definition is shifty); sometimes it is expressed as a recorded utterance; sometimes it sits quietly within a seemingly mundane note or glyph. The material forms by which writing is organized and distributed into things—books, newspapers, documents—often tell as much as the content. I’m especially interested in the evolutions of language, from creolization to bi- and translingualism to the theory and practice of translation. These changes have arisen, in the Americas, from the violence of colonial dispossession and the forced movement of peoples away from their homelands, justified and organized through racial and religious ideologies.


These concerns unite my two seemingly distant research and teaching fields: on the one hand, the histories of the sixteenth to nineteenth-century Americas, and on the other the present-day experiences of Latine/x/a/o people in the US. For examples, see the Publications list.


A bit about me. I was born in California to a Mexican and German-American family, the first in my family to graduate from college. I received a BA in History from Swarthmore College and went on to earn a PhD in Comparative Literature at Yale. My first academic position was at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and I came to UC Santa Cruz in 1996. I have taught thousands of undergraduate students since, in courses large and small that I am constantly reinventing and remixing. I have also mentored dozens of graduate students through the MA and PhD programs at UCSC and elsewhere. 

Honors, Awards and Grants

  • Co-PI, "The Latinx Past": Crossing Latinidades Working Group, funded by the Mellon Foundation
  • Executive Coordinator, Society of Early Americanists (2023-25)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship, 2016
  • Elected to membership in the American Antiquarian Society, 2011
  • Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies, 2005-06
  • Longtime member of the Board of the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Project

Selected Publications


Cotton Mather's Spanish Lessons: A Story of Language, Race, and Belonging in the Early Americas. Harvard University Press, 2022. This book has won the American Historical Association's Albert J. Beveridge Award for Best Book in the history of the Americas post-1492; the Best Book Award from the Society for the History of Authorship, Readership, and Publishing from SHARP; the Early American Literature Book Award (2020-2023); and the John Winthrop Award  in Early New England History from the Colonial Society of Massachusetts.  

Ambassadors of Culture: The Transamerican Origins of Latino Writing. Princeton University Press, Translation/Transnation series, 2002. Honorable Mention, John Hope Franklin Prize for Best Book in American Studies, American Studies Association, 2002.


"AA's Alphabet: Desiring Letterforms in Alfred Arteaga's 'Sexo," forthcoming fall 2024 in Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies, edited by Richard T. Rodriguez and David Lloyd. (Acccompanied by a translation of the poem "Sexo.")

"California Before America: Tilting Eighteenth-Century Studies Toward the Pacific," forthcoming in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture

"Lanuza, Mendía, & Co. and the Unfinished Business of Spanish-Language Bibliography," Early American Literature, 2023.

“Maritime Pedagogies: Or, How Much Spanish Did Melville Know?" Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, 2021.

“Before Latinx: New Orleans as a Center of Spanish-Language Literary Culture.” In New Orleans: The Literary History, ed. T.R. Johnson. Cambridge UP 2019.

“Past Americana.” ELH: English Literary History. Summer 2019, vol. 86:2.

"Transamerican New Orleans: From the Spanish Period to Post-Katrina,” Cambridge History of Latino/a Literature, eds. John Morán González and Laura Lomas, 2018.

“’Poor Eliza’ On the Border.” “Forum: Afterlives of Nineteenth-Century Racism.” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists 6:1 (spring 2018), 182-189.

“Unsettlers and Speculators,” PMLA 131:3 (May 2016), 743-751.

“The Errant Latino: Irisarri, Central Americanness, and Migration’s Intention,” The Latino Nineteenth Century, eds. Rodrigo Lazo and Jesse Alemán (NYU Press, 2016), 20-48.

“Alien Speech, Incorporated: On the Cultural History of Spanish in the U.S.” American Literary History 25:1 (spring 2013), 18-32.

“Authors, Readers, and the Mediations of Print Culture.” The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature, eds. Suzanne Bost and Frances Aparicio (Routledge, 2012), 485-494.

“What Was Latino Literature?” PMLA 127:2 (March 2012), 335-341.

“Mexican/American: The Making of Borderlands Print Culture,” US Popular Print Culture, 1860-1920, ed. Christine Bold (Oxford UP, History of Popular Print Culture series, 2011), 457-476.

“Tracking the First Latino Novel: Un matrimonio como hay muchos (1849) and Transnational Print Culture,” in Transnationalism and American Serial Fiction, ed. Patricia Okker (Routledge, 2011), 36-63.

“Worlding America: The Hemispheric Text-Network” in Robert Levine and Caroline S. Levander, eds., The Blackwell Companion to American Literary Studies (Blackwell, 2011), 228-247. Co-authored with Susan Gillman.

"The Conquest of Tenochtitlán" and "Richard Henry Dana in California,"  in A New Literary History of America, gen. eds. Greil Marcus, Werner Sollors, Lindsay Waters, Harvard University Press (2009). I served on the Editorial Board for this volume.

“Maria Gowen Brooks, In and Out of the Poe Circle,” ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance, 54 (fall 2008), 75-109.

“Walt Whitman, Latino Poet,” in Walt Whitman: Where the Future Becomes Present, eds. David Haven Blake and Michael Robertson (University of Iowa Press - Iowa Whitman Series, 2008), 151-176.

“The Cafetal of María del Occidente and the Anglo-American Race for Cuba,” in The Traffic in Poems: Anglo-American Poetry in the Nineteenth-Century Literary Marketplace, ed. Meredith McGill (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008), 37-62.

“The Once and Future Latino: Notes toward a Literary History todavía por llegar,” in Contemporary Latino/a Literary Criticism, eds. Lyn DiIoria Sandín and Richard Pérez (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 115-142.

“The Mercurial Space of ‘Central’ America: New Orleans, Honduras, and the Writing of the Banana Republic,” in Hemispheric American Studies, eds. Caroline Levander and Robert S. Levine (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007), 140-165.

“America,” in Keywords of American Cultural Studies, eds. Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler (New York University Press, 2007; revised for second edition, 2014 and third edition, 2020).

“The Gulf of Mexico System and the ‘Latinness’ of New Orleans,” American Literary History 18:4 (Fall 2006), 468-495.

“Other Languages, Other Americas,” in The Blackwell Companion to American Fiction, 1780-1865, ed. Shirley Samuels. New York: Blackwell Press, 2004.

“Translation: A Key(word) into the Language of America(nists),” American Literary History 16:1 (Winter 2004), 85-92.

“Utopía Latina: The Ordinary Seaman in Extraordinary Times.” Modern Fiction Studies 49:1 (Spring 2003), 54-83.


Co-editor with Introduction: "Embodying Memory: A Dossier on the Future of Archival Research and Community Praxis with the Latinx Past Working Group," under review at Pasados

The Spanish Americas. Special issue of Early American Literature, co-edited with Rodrigo Lazo and with a co-written Introduction. Fall 2018, 58:3.

A New Literary History of America. Eds. Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors. Editorial Board member and contributor (“1521: Mexico in America,” “1836: Richard Henry Dana, Jr."). Harvard University Press, 2009.