Skip to main content

Professor Will Kaufman

Professor of American Literature and Culture
School of Humanities, Language & Global Studies

One of the UK's senior scholars in American Studies, Will teaches across a range of topics in American literature and cultural history. He has published widely in such areas as US protest music (with particular emphasis on Woody Guthrie), the Civil War in culture, American comedy and satire, the culture of the 1970s, and transatlantic studies.

In addition to his undergraduate teaching and postgraduate supervision, Will is one of our leading researchers in American literature and culture. He is universally recognised as the world’s leading authority on the American folk balladeer, Woody Guthrie, having published three ground-breaking books on him: 'Woody Guthrie, American Radical' (2011), 'Woody Guthrie's Modern World Blues' (2017) and 'Mapping Woody Guthrie' (2019). Also a semi-professional folksinger and multi-instrumentalist, Will has toured Europe and the United States with his live musical documentaries on Guthrie. He has appeared at such high-profile showcases as the Glastonbury Festival, the Bath International Music Festival, the Whitby Folk Festival, and the Chester Literature Festival, as well as hundreds of music venues on both sides of the Atlantic. Will's scholarship and performances on Guthrie have attracted the public praise of eminent musical figures such as Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Ry Cooder, and Ralph McTell. Most recently, it was Will who brought to light Guthrie’s archival writings against the racist policies of his Brooklyn landlord, Fred C. Trump — the US President’s father — in the 1950s.

Will Kaufman is a graduate of Montclair State College (now University) in New Jersey, with a degree in English and History. He was a Marshall Scholar at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he earned a PhD in American Literature. After two years' teaching in English and American Studies at North Staffordshire Polytechnic (now Staffordshire University), he served with Voluntary Service Overseas in Indonesia, teaching English at Sriwijaya University in Sumatra. Upon his return to the UK in 1990, Will joined the English team at Lancashire Polytechnic, which became the University of Central Lancashire in 1992. It was here that Will developed a diverse and acclaimed profile in American Studies research and teaching, leading to senior executive roles in the British Association for American Studies, of which he has been a member since 1986.