Lott received his Ph. D. in 1991 from Columbia University. He has been a faculty member in the Department of English at the University of Virginia since 1990.
Lott's book about the origins, evolution, and cultural significance of blackface minstrelsy, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (1993), received the 1994 Avery O. Craven Award from the Organization of American Historians and the first annual Modern Language Association's "Best First Book" prize, and the 1994 Outstanding Book on the Subject of Human Rights by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights. 
Bob Dylan is widely reported to have taken the title of his album Love and Theft from that of Lott's book; Lott, in turn, considered his own title "a riff on" Leslie Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel.
Love and Theft extensively documents the racism and cultural appropriation inherent in blackface performance; Lott also argues that it demonstrates a current of homosexual desire for Black men's bodies; he also argues that "mixed in with vicious parodies and lopsided appropriation, minstrelsy involved a real love of African American culture."
- The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual: Or, How the Left Became the Center (2006)
- Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (1993)
- The Cambridge Handbook of American Literature (1986) (co-author)
- Nationally acclaimed author to give Nye Lecture as part of Ethnomusicology Forum University of Michigan, April 15, 1999. Accessed online 10 August 2006.
- David McNair and Jayson Whitehead interview with Lott on Gadfly Online. Accessed online 10 August 2006.
- Love and Theft, passim.
- Abstract for Lott's plenary talk "Love and Theft Revisited: Poseurs and Playas from Blackface to Hip-Hop (And What This All Means for Rock and Roll)" at the Pop Conference, Experience Music Project, 2005. Accessed online 10 August 2006.
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