Don James McLaughlin earned his Ph.D. in English at the University of Pennsylvania in July 2017. He completed his dissertation “Infectious Affect: The Phobic Imagination in American Literature” under the direction of Heather Love, Max Cavitch, Nancy Bentley, and Chi-ming Yang. The dissertation traces the emergence of the -phobia suffix in American print culture as a diagnosis, political metaphor, and aesthetic sensation in the 18th and 19th centuries. In January 2016, an essay from the project was published in The New Republic, titled "The Anti-Slavery Roots of Today's "-Phobia" Obsession." In the summer of 2018, Don James was awarded the Hench Post-Dissertation Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society to support completion of his first book. In the fall of 2018, he joined the English Department at the University of Tulsa as Assistant Professor of 19th-Century American Literature.
In and beyond this research, Don James's scholarship focuses on 18th- and 19th-century literary movements in the Americas; queer historiography; the medical humanities; and the history of emotion. While a doctoral candidate in 2014, he had the privilege of collaborating with Connie King, Curator of Women's History at the Library Company of Philadelphia, on an exhibit titled "That's So Gay: Outing Early America." The show documented various instances of queer life in early America across an array of materials at LCP, from rare books to bawdy stereographs, comic valentines, and other ephemera. Research for his dissertation and first book has been supported by the Penn Humanities Forum, American Antiquarian Society, and a Marguerite Bartlett Hamer Dissertation Fellowship at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.