Working in the interdisciplinary field of American studies, Amy Kaplan's scholarship and teaching focus on the culture of imperialism, comparative perspectives on the Americas, prison writing, the American novel, and mourning, memory and war.
A past president of the American Studies Association, Kaplan received her Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University, with a specialty in late-nineteenth-century American literature. Her first book was The Social Construction of American Realism (U Chicago P, 1988). She co-edited, with Donald Pease, Cultures of U. S. Imperialism (Duke, 1993). In her book The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture (Harvard UP 2002) Kaplan shows how imperial expansion abroad--from the US-Mexico War of 1848 to the First World War--profoundly shaped key elements of American culture at home. She has received an NEH Fellowship and the Norman Forster prize for the best essay in American Literature in 1998 for "Manifest Domesticity."
A wide-ranging critic of American culture and policy and of the language of empire today, Kaplan has published recent essays on academic life in occupied Palestine, the discourse of “homeland security” in response to 9/11, the place of Guantanamo Bay in American history, and analogies between the American and Roman Empires, as well as articles on Mark Twain and Herman Melville. She is currently exploring the persistent and powerful working of Zionism in American culture and politics.