Lily Scherlis

Cohort Year: 2019
Research Interests: 20th/21st century | Cultural studies | History of science and sociology | Performance studies | Gender and sexuality studies | Theories of character


Lily researches how personality and character are subject to aesthetic judgment in contemporary U.S. culture. She studies the methods that people, institutions, and the social sciences use to evaluate and reward others' social performances (grades, wealth, security, affection, online likes, physical gestures, cultural capital, friendship). Her work focuses on the recent history of racial capitalism in the US, and is informed by performance studies, gender and sexuality studies, theories of character in literary criticism, and media studies.

An affiliate of Theater & Performance Studies, her video and performance work has been exhibited at the Carpenter Center for Visual Art and featured in programming at the Smart Museum of Art. She received her AB from Harvard in 2018. She is also Nonfiction Editor at Chicago Review.


  • "Good, Likeable People Who Love Each Other," Post45 Contemporaries (part of a cluster on BoJack Horseman edited by Pamela Thurschwell and Jack Belloli)
  • "Beasts of No Nation: On the Poetics of Invasion and Marwa Helal," Jacket2 (review essay on Helal’s Invasive Species and the history of ecology)
  • "Distantiated Communities," Cabinet (on the history of the phrase "social distancing"; interview with TIME)