Deborah Cohn

Deborah Cohn

Professor, Spanish and Portuguese


  • Ph.D., Hispanic Studies, Brown University, 1996
  • M.A., Spanish Literature, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, 1990


  • Comparative Literature
  • English
  • Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society
  • Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS)
  • Latino Studies
  • Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society

About Deborah Cohn

My research engages the fields of Latin American Studies, American studies, and Cold War studies, among others. I study 20th-century Spanish American literature and the cultural and political contexts in which it was written, published, and canonized. I also focus on Cold War cultural diplomacy in and beyond the Americas. My research includes both literary criticism and cultural history, and has been published in journals serving multiple disciplines (e.g., Diplomatic History, Latin American Research Review, American Literature, Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos). My work has also generated interest outside of academia, with citations in Quartz, Reforma (Mexico), the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and others. I have received funding from: the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University; the American Philosophical Society; the Rockefeller Archive Center; the Harry Ransom Center; and Indiana University, among other sources.

My current research project, Cold War Humanities, examines how scholars in the fields of foreign languages and literatures as well as American studies used their teaching, scholarship, and administrative efforts to complement official U.S. efforts to win hearts and minds around the world. I explore the Cold War politics and activism of scholars in these fields, and reveal how, by extension, the fields were entangled with official policies and priorities, functioning, in effect, as vehicles for soft power even as they expanded the practical reach and prominence of the humanities both domestically and abroad. I was Guest Editor of a special issue of Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas, on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Cien años de soledad. The issue includes contributions from distinguished writers, scholars, and translators such as Cristina Garca, Gerald Martin, Julio Ortega, and others.

My teaching history reflects my research in and involvement with multiple disciplines. Over the past few years, I have developed new courses on Latin and Caribbean literatures, as well as American (broadly defined) literature and culture that have been listed with American Studies, English, Latino Studies, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. I have directed and served on Ph.D. dissertations and undergraduate honors theses for students in multiple departments and disciplines. Additionally, I have received teaching awards in two different departments in the past few years: the Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award presented by graduate students in Spanish and Portuguese (2011), and the Trustees Teaching Award in American Studies (2012).


  • Cold War cultural relations between Spanish America and the U.S.
  • Cold War cultural diplomacy
  • the Cold War history of humanistic disciplines in the U.S. university
  • Comparative literatures of the Americas
  • Faulkner and Spanish American literature
  • the Mexican intellectual infrastructure

Selected publications

  • The Latin American Literary Boom and U.S. Nationalism during the Cold War (Vanderbilt UP, 2012)
  • Look Away!: The U.S. South in New World Studies, co-edited with Jon Smith (Duke, 2004)
  • History and Memory in the Two Souths:  Recent Southern and Spanish American Fiction (Vanderbilt, 1999)
Selected articles
  • “Cultural Diplomacy and the Promotion of Latin American Literature in the U.S. University during the Cold War,” The Routledge Companion to Inter-American Studies, ed. Wilfried Raussert (forthcoming)
  • “‘In between propaganda and escapism’: William Faulkner as Cold War Cultural Ambassador,” Diplomatic History (forthcoming)
  • “America,” Keywords for Southern Studies, ed. Scott Romine and Jennifer Greeson (forthcoming)
  • “Regionalism and U.S. Nationalism in William Faulkner’s State Department Travels.” Creating and Consuming the U.S. South.  Ed. Martyn Bone, Brian Ward, et al. Gainesville:  UP of Florida, 2015.  248-67.
  • “Carlos Fuentes: Fostering Latin American-U.S. Relations during the Boom.”  INTI (primavera-otoño 2012).
  • The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta and Death in the Andes.” Cambridge Companion to Mario Vargas Llosa.  Ed. John King and Efraín Kristal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.  88-101.
  • “Mexico.” The Encyclopedia of the Novel. Ed. Peter Logan, Efraín Kristal, et al. Oxford (UK):  Blackwell Publishing, 2011.  515-20.
  • “Ghosts of the American Century:  The Intellectual, Programmatic, and Institutional Challenges for Transnational/Hemispheric American Studies.” Co-authored with Matthew Guterl.  Teaching and Studying the Americas: Cultural Influences from Colonialism to the Present.  Ed. Anthony Pinn, Caroline Levander, and Michael Emerson. New York:  Palgrave/Macmillan, 2010.  243-62.
  • “P.E.N. and the Sword:  U.S.-Latin American Cultural Diplomacy and the 1966 P.E.N. Club Congress.”  Hemispheric American Studies.  Ed. Caroline Levander and Robert Levine.  New Brunswick:  Rutgers UP, 2008.  206-222.
  •  “U.S. Southern and Latin American Studies:  Postcolonial and Inter-American Approaches.”  Global South 1.1 (Winter 2007):  38-44.
  • “Combating Anti-Americanism during the Cold War:  Faulkner, the State Department, and Latin America.”  Mississippi Quarterly 59.3-4 (Summer – Fall 2006):  396-413.
  • “Faulkner, Latin America, and the Caribbean:  Influence, Politics, and Academic Disciplines.”  A Companion to William Faulkner.  Ed. Richard Moreland.  Oxford (UK):  Blackwell, 2006.  499-518.
  • “A Tale of Two Translation Programs:  Politics, the Market, and Rockefeller Funding for Latin American Literature in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.” Latin American Research Review 41.2 (2006):  139-64.
  • “U.S. Southern Studies and Latin American Studies:  Windows onto Postcolonial Studies.”  American Literature 78.4 (December 2006):  704-7.
  • “’Ridiculous rather than secure’: Carlos Fuentes and the McCarran-Walter Act.” Review:  Literature and Arts of the Americas 71 (2005):  314-27.
  • “The Mexican Intelligentsia, 1950-1968:  Cosmopolitanism, National Identity, and the State.” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 21.2 (Winter 2005):  141-82.
  • Levine, Suzanne Jill (author), and Deborah Cohn (contributor).   “The Latin American Novel in English.” Cambridge Companion to the Latin American Novel.  Ed. Efraín Kristal.  Cambridge:  Cambridge UP, 2005. 297-317.
  • “William Faulkner’s Ibero-American Novel Project:  The Politics of Translation and the Cold War.” The Southern Quarterly (Winter 2004):  5-18.
  • “Retracing The Lost Steps:  The Cuban Revolution, the Cold War, and Publishing Alejo Carpentier in the U.S.” CR:  The New Centennial Review 3.1 (Spring 2003):  81-108.
  • “Faulkner and Spanish America:  Then and Now.” Faulkner and the Twenty-First Century.    Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, 2000. Ed. Robert Hamblin and Ann Abadie.  Jackson, MS:  UP of Mississippi, 2003.  50-67.


  • HISP S781/CMLT C611: Faulkner and Spanish American Authors
  • HISP S708/AMST G751: "So close to the United States": Anxieties of Race, Nation, and Imperialism in Mexico and the Caribbean
  • HISP S688/AMST G751: Revolution and the Cold War in Latino/a Literature (1959-present) 
  • HISP S678/AMST G751: Race, Nation, and Anxieties of Empire in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America 
  • HISP S578: Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Spanish American Literature
  • HISP S495:  The Cold War, Revolution, and Counter-Revolution in Spanish American and Latino/a Literature 
  • HISP S481: Topics in Hispanic American National/Regional Literature:  The Hispanophone Caribbean 
  • HISP S479: Mexican Literature
  • HISP S331: The Hispanic World I
  • AMST G604/HISP S695: Hemispheric and Transnational American Studies
  • AMST A298/ENGL L208/HISP S265: Faulkner and Spanish American and Caribbean Authors 
  • AMST A202/HISP S265:  Literature and Culture of the Americas after the Cuban Revolution 

Honors & Awards

  • Mellon Innovating International Research, Teaching, and Collaboration Award (for Junot Díaz visit), 2014
  • College Arts and Humanities Institute Conference Grant (Junot Díaz visit), 2013 
  • Trustees’ Teaching Award, Small Departments – American Studies, 2012
  • Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, 2011
  • College Arts and Humanities Institute Grant, 2005 
  • Faculty Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2004-2005
  • Franklin Research Grant, American Philosophical Society, 2004
  • Summer Faculty Fellowship, Indiana University, 2004
  • President's Arts and Humanities Initiative Grant, Indiana University, 2002
  • Grant-in-Aid for Research, Indiana University, 2002
  • Rockefeller Archive Center Research Fellowship, 2001-2002
  • Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Fellowship, University of Texas at Austin, 2001-2002
  • William S. Vaughn Fellowship, Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, Vanderbilt University, 2000-2001
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant, held from 1999-2001
  • Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et l'Aide à la Recherche (Fonds FCAR) Grant 1999-2002