Meagan Wilson


M.A. English literature, Boston College (2011)
B.A., Philosophy and English literature, Wellesley College (2006)

Meagan Wilson joined the department in 2011. Her work focuses on American literary history and popular culture of the 20th-century, with a special interest in reception history, collective memory, community formation, and digital humanities.

Meagan's dissertation, Grassroots Minstrelsy, looks at the American phenomenon of local amateur minstrel shows staged for charity, which began appearing nationwide with increased regularity in the early 20th-century. It defines and theorizes the concept of Grassroots Minstrelsy: amateur minstrel shows that were ritually resurrected over time, becoming looming local traditions. Meagan explores the cultural afterlives of 19th-century minstrelsy by building archival case studies of two seemingly disparate performance communities: the all black Amateur Minstrel Club of Chicago, Illinois (1897 to 1952) and the all white Civic Club of Tunbridge, Vermont (1952 to present).

Grassroots Minstrelsy’s methodology merges archival research, close reading, thick description, and digital humanities. Grassroots Minstrelsy in Bronzeville, a digital component to Meagan’s dissertation, focuses on Chicago’s forgotten Amateur Minstrel Club and Women’s Amateur Minstrels, two exclusively black social organizations composed of elite men and women who staged wildly popular charitable minstrel shows for Chicago’s black society during the first half of the 20th-century. Sponsored by Princeton’s Center for the Digital Humanities, the project collects, analyzes, and visualizes the Clubs’ performance history (such as song titles, performance roles, and charitable funds) and member demographics (such as physical addresses, reported occupations, and birth locations). To this end, Meagan schematized and coded a relational database in MySQL using data scraped from digitized newspapers, historical sheet music, and U.S. Census records.

Meagan began working in the digital humanities in 2013 as a project manager and digital curator for the Princeton Prosody Archive. She served as a graduate member of Princeton’s Digital Humanities Steering Committee, which led to the development of Princeton’s Center for Digital Humanities, and founded the Digital Humanities Graduate Student Caucus. An advocate for diverse career paths among graduate students, she is a member of Princeton’s Next Generation Humanities PhD Committee, formed through a planning grant awarded by the National Endowment of the Humanities. In this leadership role, Meagan works with Princeton faculty, staff, and graduate alumni to advise Princeton on institutional changes toward a new model of doctoral education that best prepares students for careers within and beyond academia.

Meagan has taught classes in the English and Computer Science departments, and she designed and instructed her own first-year writing seminar.

Selected Publications

Wilson, M. "Your Reputation Precedes You: A Reception Study of Naked Lunch." Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 35 no. 2, 2012, pp. 98-125. Project MUSE,