Critical Theory

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.

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.

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.

Julie Orlemanski

Julie OrlemanskiI teach and write about texts from the late Middle Ages, a period that organized its categories of discourse very differently than we do today. I am fascinated by how medieval literature, science, and religion sometimes overlapped and at other times assumed sharp distinctions, as separate and contrasting modes of knowledge. All of my research seeks to respond to what is distinctive in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century constellations of discourse. In practice, this also demands thinking about how we come to know the past. Hence, I have a strong interest in the theory and practice of hermeneutics, historicism, criticism, and other forms of knowledge production in the humanities.

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.

Zachary Samalin

My research and teaching are anchored in the literature and culture of the Victorian period, with a particular focus on the unique blend of social criticism, high art and mass entertainment that characterizes the Victorian novel. I am also fascinated by the ways in which major theoretical innovations of the 19th century, such as Marxism and psychoanalysis, have outlived their own historical moment and continue to influence critical discourse in the present, providing the contours for ongoing debates in literary, aesthetic and cultural theory.

David Carroll Simon

David Simon

I teach and write about the literary and intellectual history of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, often in connection with continental (especially French) cultural phenomena. I am writing a book about the intimacy of literature and science in this period, which explores the shared interest of natural philosophers and poets in the epistemological and ethical consequences of carelessness and other forms of casual indifference. By describing experiences of minimal feeling that are neither repressive nor illusory, neither achievements of self-discipline nor self-serving fabrications, the protagonists of my project disclose an unfamiliar conception of scientific dispassion. For Boyle, Marvell, Milton, and others, “nonchalance” intensifies receptivity and draws out the world’s hidden properties.


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.

Christopher Taylor

Christopher TaylorMy research and teaching focus on the hemispheric Americas in the nineteenth century. While the British West Indies is my primary area of focus, I am interested in how these islands were linked to worlds beyond the boundaries of the British Empire. Working at the edges of economic history, political theory, and literary studies, I study how West Indian creoles drew on the ideas and texts that circulated through these entangled worlds to develop norms and model polities opposed to slavery, economic liberalism, and expansionist imperialism.


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