Erin Pearson is a literary scholar whose research focuses on the discourse on slavery, the construction of race, and nineteenth-century American and transatlantic literature. Before becoming a Lecturer on History and Literature at Harvard, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies at the University of Rochester. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Irvine, and her A.B. in English from Harvard College.
Her current book project, Savage Hunger: Cannibalism and the Discourse on Slavery in the United States and Caribbean, argues that cannibalism was a defining feature of the discourse on slavery. From the proslavery advocates who used allegations of African cannibalism to justify enslavement to the antislavery activists who used cannibalism as a metaphor for human exploitation, cannibalism afforded Anglophone writers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a powerful conceptual tool for making sense of slavery. Her approach combines the examination of rare archival materials like political cartoons and blackface minstrel songsters with extended close readings of major works by writers including Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, and Herman Melville.