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Christopher Benfey
Born October 28, 1954 (1954-10-28) (age 69)
Merion, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation Professor
Nationality American
Subject Emily Dickinson
Notable works Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington

Christopher Benfey (born October 28, 1954) is an American literary critic and Emily Dickinson scholar. He is the Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College.

Early life and education

Benfey was born in Merion, Pennsylvania, but spent most of his childhood in Richmond, Indiana. and attended The Putney School. His father was a German immigrant and his mother was from North Carolina. He began his undergraduate studies at Earlham College, where his father, Otto Theodor Benfey, was a professor in the Chemistry department, and completed his B.A. at Guilford College. Benfey holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University.


Benfey is a specialist in 19th and 20th century American literature. He is also an established essayist and critic who has been published in The Atlantic, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, and The Times Literary Supplement. He was an art critic for Slate.

He is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English. He is a Guggenheim fellow, as well as a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


  • Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable (1999)
  • The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics, and the Opening of Old Japan, (2003)
  • A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade (2008)
  • American Audacity: Literary Essays North and South (2010)
  • Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay (2012)
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