Critical Theory

Benjamin Morgan

Benjamin MorganMy research and teaching focus on literature, science, and aesthetics in the Victorian period and early twentieth century. My particular areas of interest include nineteenth-century sciences of mind and emotion; aestheticism and decadence in a global context; and speculative and non-realist fiction, including gothic, science fiction, utopia, and romance. My approach to the period is oriented by critical traditions in aesthetic and affect theory, science studies, and the environmental humanities.

James Lastra

James LastraI specialize in American film and have published extensively on sound in film, especially as it relates to the unfolding history of modernity and the aesthetics of both high and vernacular modernisms. Other sound interests include the material history of human sensory experience and how it conditions the emergence and normalization of representational technologies. My latest sound research deals with theories of asynchronous sound in film and with the Wagnerian aesthetics of modern sound design in American film. I have specific research interests in Surrealism both in Europe and in the United States, silent film comedy, American experimental film, and the films and writing of Luis Buñuel. Like most of the members of Cinema and Media Studies, I approach the American cinema as part of a global system of cultural production and exchange.

Loren Kruger

I am a comparatist whose research interests take in several languages and locations. I focus especially on literature and visual culture in South Africa, and drama and performance in English, French, German and Spanish across Africa, the African diaspora, the Americas, and Europe. Most of my books and articles focus on theatre and other kinds of live performance but my research and publications cover cinema, television, prose fiction and graphic fiction, as well as critical theory.

Bill Brown

Bill BrownIn the past, my research has focused on popular literary genres (e.g. science fiction, the Western), on recreational forms (baseball, kung fu), and on the ways that mass-cultural phenomena (from roller coasters to Kodak cameras) impress themselves on the literary imagination. Rather than assuming that historical contexts help to explain a particular literary text, I assume that literature provides access to an otherwise unrecuperable history. That is, I assume that the act of literary analysis (including formal analysis) can become an "historiographical operation" all its own.

W. J. T. Mitchell

W. T. J. MitchellI teach in both the English and the Art History departments and edit the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, a quarterly devoted to critical theory in the arts and human sciences. I work particularly on the history and theories of media, visual art, and literature, from the eighteenth century to the present. My work explores the relations of visual and verbal representations in the culture and iconology (the study of images across the media).  In addition to publications resulting from my own research, under my editorship Critical Inquiry has published special issues on public art, psychoanalysis, pluralism, feminism, the sociology of literature, canons, race and identity, narrative, the politics of interpretation, postcolonial theory, and many other topics.

Richard Strier (emeritus, teaching 2015-16)

Richard StrierMy passion is to bring together two modes of literary study that have, traditionally but needlessly, been seen as antagonistic: formalism and historicism. I am deeply interested in the intellectual history of the early modern period, especially theological and political ideas. I am interested in the ideas themselves but even more in the ways in which they find their way into English and American literature in the period. My book on George Herbert attempts to demonstrate how deeply the central ideas of Reformation theology are at work in the intricate tonal and structural details of the lyrics.

Lawrence Rothfield

Lawrence Rothfield
 
My research focuses on the way in which literature, criticism, and other cultural activities are caught up within epistemic and political struggles. I am interested in understanding, in particular, how the nineteenth-century novel in England and France mutates in response to changes in what counts as knowledge (the emergence of physiology, statistics, economics, biology, linguistics, Darwinism); how cultural criticism carves out a niche for itself within the field of disciplines; and how fiction and criticism function as instruments of power. http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/R/bo5825985.html

Mark Miller

Mark MillerMy work is situated historically in late-medieval literature and culture, and conceptually in the intersections of psychoanalysis, feminism, and queer theory with ethics, theory of action, and philosophical psychology. My book Philosophical Chaucer: Love, Sex, and Agency in the Canterbury Tales (Cambridge University Press, 2004) investigates the ways Chaucer's philosophical interests can help us read his representations of gender and sexuality; one of its main concerns is to understand the often tortured logics of erotic desire and romantic love. In my current book project, I'm trying to understand the psychology and ideology of sin in the late middle ages: the structures of guilt, shame, and pollution that attend it; its erotics; its relation to the ambitions of moral perfection and utopian sociality; the centrality to it of the spectacle of Christ's crucifixion.

Maud Ellmann

Maud EllmannMy research and teaching interests focus on British and European modernism and critical theory, particularly psychoanalysis and feminism. My first book, The Poetics of Impersonality: T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, takes a deconstructive approach to these poets’ work, analyzing how their championship of literary impersonality – i.e. the disappearance of the poet in the poem - reveals their divided political and philosophical allegiances. My second book, The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing, and Imprisonment, examines the phenomenon of self-starvation, ranging from Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa to Bobby Sands, the iconic martyr of the Irish Hunger Strike of 1981. 

Lauren Berlant

My work has focused on the affective components of belonging in the U.S. nineteenth and twentieth centuries—now the twenty-first: in particular, in relation to juridical citizenship, to informal and normative modes of social belonging, and to practices of intimacy as they absorb legal, normative, and fantasmatic forces. These scenes of relation articulate state, juridical, and institutional practices of zoning and more abstract boundary-drawing—between public and private, white and non-white, and/or citizen and foreigner—with other kinds of social bonds through which people imagine and practice world-making.

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