Nineteenth-Century American Literature

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.

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.

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.

Janice Knight

Janice KnightMy research and teaching interests are localized with respect to historical period-Early American Cultures-but broad with respect to interest in discourses, peoples and cultures of the colonial period, and with respect to scholarly method. My current research focuses on what might be called the "culture of religious emotion" in the context of women's experience in Early America. I am interested in reflecting on expressions of spiritual ecstasy, melancholy, hauntedness, and possession as they are embodied and contained within such conventional genres as narratives of conversion, captivity, revelation, and spiritual disease.

Eric Slauter

My scholarship focuses chiefly on transformations in political thought and behavior in the eighteenth century. My first book, The State as a Work of Art: The Cultural Origins of the Constitution, examined the relation of culture to politics in revolutionary America. I was especially interested there in how the emergent state was challenged in its effort to sustain inalienable natural rights alongside slavery and to achieve political secularization at a moment of growing religious expression.

William Veeder (emeritus, teaching 2015-16)

Henry James - The Lessons of the Master: by William VeederIn the classroom and on paper, I am working to integrate text and context. The pleasures of reading remain paramount for me. Now that the reaction against New Criticism has crested, I am exploring how to supplement readerly pleasures with the intricate, amplifying elements to be engaged through contextual study, and through psychoanalytic and gender theories. Whether the classroom is focusing on American and British Gothic of the Nineteenth Century (Eng. 45100, 41800) or on contemporary fiction (Eng. 247, 270, 499) or on specific figures such as Henry James (Eng. 223) or Ambrose Bierce (Eng. 298), I work from James' wonderful dictum "in the arts feeling is always meaning." Each student's individual experience of the text is what I emphasize: our goal is not to agree but to define what we share and where we disagree. Respect for affective differences, rather than homage to a fashionable ideology or methodology, is the goal of my teaching.

Kenneth Warren

Kenneth WarrenMy scholarship and teaching focuses on American and African American literature from the late nineteenth century through the middle of the twentieth century. I am particularly interested in the way that debates about literary form and genre articulate with discussions of political and social change. My two books, Black and White Strangers: Race and American Literary Realism (Chicago, 1993) and So Black and Blue: Ralph Ellison and the Occasion of Criticism (Chicago, 2003), explore how various understandings of black/white racial difference have affected, and continue to affect, the way that American authors write about and pass critical judgment on American literature.

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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