Augusta Rohrbach’s study of literature emphasizes a “bottom up” theory of culture, essentially believing that culture is constructed by individual interests instead of being created as a whole. She specializes in North American literature; however, her interests range from the nineteenth to the twentieth century in American literature and culture. As a 1999–2000 Bunting Fellow, Rohrbach completed the manuscript for her book, Keeping It Real: Material Contexts of Literary Realism from Abolition to the Harlem Renaissance (St. Martin's Press, 2001). Rohrbach wrote Keeping It Real as a reread of nineteenth-century literary history through the lens of business history.
During the 2000–2001 fellowship year, Rohrbach will write a book manuscript, “Scribbling Women: Race, Gender, and the Literary Marketplace,” in which she will examine the role of the market in the careers of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century women writers. The work and interests of the women varied greatly, but they share an uncanny skill to adapt themselves and their messages to the marketplace. This approach allows Rohrbach to explore aspects of literary history that have not been highlighted and to suggest a way to talk about this diverse collection of writers without flattening out their differences.
Rohrbach earned her PhD in English and comparative literature from Columbia University. She has received a number of honors and awards for her literary works, including a Ford Foundation Grant and a William Dean Howells Memorial Fellowship. She is the president of the Edith Wharton Society.