Twentieth-Century American Literature

Michael Dango

I study contemporary American literature and culture, aesthetics, and theories of gender and sexuality.  At the University of Chicago, my research is supported in part by a residential fellowship in the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.  Before starting graduate studies, I held a post-baccalaureate fellowship in the Humanities Digital Workshop at Washington University in St. Louis, and I maintain secondary research interests in computational approaches to textual analysis.  

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.

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.

Lisa Ruddick

Lisa RuddickI teach courses in modern British fiction, literature and psychoanalysis, and poetry and poetics. The question driving my teaching right now is: what conduces to the feeling of aliveness? Why do good poems and novels seem to draw us close to something we'd call being, and is there a way to talk about this phenomenon in non-fuzzy, theoretical terms? What do poets variously say about the sense of readiness that precedes creation, and how does the adherence to form help to enable this readiness? 

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.

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.

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.

Srikanth (Chicu) Reddy

Srikanth ReddyI am a poet and scholar working at the intersection of creative and critical practice in the humanities.  In addition to teaching in the Department of English and the Program in Creative Writing, I also work closely with the university's Program in Poetry and Poetics--an interdisciplinary collective of scholars, poets, and translators who work on poetry across a diversity of regions, historical periods, and theoretical approaches.  If you are interested in learning more about Poetry and Poetics at Chicago—including our new curricular option within the university’s MAPH program—please visit the program’s website at poetics.uchicago.edu.

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. 

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.

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