Colin Dayan (a.k.a. Joan Dayan) received her B.A. summa cum laude, phi beta kappa from Smith College and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the City University of New York Graduate Center. Before coming to Vanderbilt in 2004 as the Robert Penn Warren Professor of the Humanities, she taught at Yale University, the City University of New York Graduate Center, University of Arizona, Princeton Univesity, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Her books include A Rainbow for the Christian West: Introducing René Depestre’s Poetry (1977) and Fables of Mind: An Inquiry into Poe’s Fiction (1987). Her book, Haiti, History, and the Gods (1995, 1998), brings history, literature, and religion into dialogue through an examination of Haitian historiography and vodou. The Story of Cruel and Unusual (MIT Press, 2007) gives a legal history to the worst excesses of the current war on terror. Her articles have appeared in dozens of scholarly books and journals such as Research in African Literatures, World Literature Today, Raritan, Southwest Review, Yale French Studies, and The Yale Review. Her book The Law is a White Dog — how the rituals of law make and unmake persons — was published by Princeton University Press in Spring 2011 and chosen by Choice as one of top 25 books for 2011. With Dogs at the Edge of Life is just out with Columbia University Press: “With Dogs at the Edge of Life is the work of a mind that slips the leash of genre or narrow specialization at every opportunity….It’s tempting to say that Dayan does for dogs what Melville did for whales: tracking the social roles and symbolic frameworks built up around them and depicting them at the intersection between cosmic order and human frailty, while also giving them (dogs and whales alike) due recognition as animals with worlds of their own.” (Inside Higher Ed)
Professor Dayan received an NEH fellowship in 1985-1986 and a Guggenheim fellowship in law for her project on slavery, incarceration, and the law of persons. She was a Davis Center fellow in the Department of History at Princeton in 1990-1991 and a fellow in the Program in Law and Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton in 2000-2001. She was elected to the Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012.