Historicism (Old and New)

Michael Murrin (emeritus)

Professor MurrinMy contribution to the medieval and Tudor-Stuart periods is comparative. Since English really did not develop a free-standing tradition before the late sixteenth century, authors normally had to consider other language traditions when they composed their works. The action of Beowulf takes place in Denmark and modern Sweden; Chaucer drew his models from France and Italy; Malory translated mostly French romances; and Spenser and Milton for the long poem looked to Italy.

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.

Deborah Nelson

Deborah NelsonMy field is late twentieth-century U.S. culture and politics, what is known in shorthand as Post45 or Post War (to the confusion of many: which war?). I also am a founding member of the Post45 collective, which publishes an online journal Post45 and a book series at Stanford University Press. My interests in the field include American poetry, novels, essays, and plays; gender and sexuality studies; photography; autobiography and confessional writing; American ethnic literature; poetry and poetics; and Cold War history. 

Jennifer Scappettone

Jennifer ScappettoneMy research and teaching interests span the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries, with particular emphasis on comparative global modernism; the history and presence of the avant-garde; poetry and poetics; the evolution of cities, geographies of modernity, and current transmogrifications of place and space; literatures of travel, migration, and displacement; barbarism, polylingualism, and other futures of language in global contexts; translation; Italian culture and its echo in others; the study of gender and sexuality; relations between literary and other arts; and art history, visual culture, and aesthetics. I’m interested in the way that Anglo-American and European languages and aesthetics register changes in the coordinates of space, time, and attention.

David Bevington (emeritus, teaching 2016-17)

Professor BevingtonIt is my pleasure and my honor to teach drama at the University of Chicago, focusing on Shakespeare and his contemporaries (Jonson, Marlowe, Webster, Middleton, Dekker, etc.), as well as medieval drama and then the entire sweep of Western drama from Aeschylus and Sophocles down to Caryl Churchill and Tom Stoppard. In addition to courses on Shakespeare, Renaissance drama, and medieval drama, I co-teach in Theater and Performance Studies ((variously with Heidi Coleman, Director of University Theater, John Muse, English Department, and Drew Dir, resident dramaturg at Court Theatre) a two-quarter sequence called The History and Theory of Drama from the 5th century B.C. down to the present day.

Timothy Campbell

Timothy CampbellMy research focuses upon the connections between the literature of eighteenth-century and Romantic Britain and the visual-cultural and consumer-material practices that shaped this literature’s new and enduring forms. I have broad interests in the history and theory of fashion, in visual and material cultural studies, in problems of historical method in literary studies, and in the forms of historiographical writing. My recent work has addressed subjects ranging from the history of the fashion plate to Romantic antiquarianism, and from the fashionable, eighteenth-century portraiture of Sir Joshua Reynolds to the present-day conceptual dress art of Christian Boltanski.

Elizabeth Helsinger (emerita, teaching 2016-17)

Elizabeth HelsingerI have long been fascinated with the interplay between literature and the visual and material arts. My early work focused on art and social criticism of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Ruskin, Hazlitt, Baudelaire, Pater): on the aesthetic or social assumptions that writers on the arts helped to formulate and the art that shaped their and their readers' sensibilities. Reading became a central term, as I studied how these critics borrow from and in turn shape techniques of looking and of more literary reading and interpretation. I've also worked extensively on landscape as an especially interesting aspect of the shared literary and visual culture of the first half of the nineteenth century—and as the site of competing, often highly politicized constructions of Englishness.

Elaine Hadley

Elaine HadleyI teach and write about nineteenth-century British culture, a period that has generously left behind a wide range of materials to examine. I've been especially committed in recent years to thinking about popular culture broadly defined (theater, journalism, cheap fiction) and political culture, especially liberalism as a social formation. My latest book, Living Liberalism, addresses Victorian political culture through political theory, theories of embodiment and the material practices of citizenship. 

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.

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.

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