As John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities, I teach in the Department of English and in the Program in History & Literature at Harvard, where I also serve on the Committee on Degrees in American Studies. In addition, I co-sponsor the American Literature Colloquium and co-chair "Novel Theory Across the Disciplines," a seminar at the Mahindra Humanities Center.
My scholarship and teaching focus on modern and contemporary American literature, the history and theory of the novel, visual media, and methods of interpretation. Recent essays of mine appear in New Literary History, Post45, American Literary History, Contemporary Literature, The Henry James Review, Public Books, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.
My first book, Site Reading: Fiction, Art, Social Form, examines six sites––supermarkets, dumps, roads, ruins, asylums, and bomb shelters––that were crucial to post-WWII American literature and visual art. Site Reading received the Erving Goffman Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Social Interaction from the Media Ecology Association. The book is available from Princeton University Press.
Currently, I'm at work on two book projects.
The first, "Art Novels," which is forthcoming from Princeton UP, examines the relationship between the contemporary novel and the visual/performing arts. Building on my work in Site Reading, I argue in this book that the contemporary art novel is a "performative" genre that not only excavates the social practices of media (from painting and sculpture to conceptual art and digital design) but also reframes key themes in aesthetic theory (e.g. agency, intentionality, objectivity, &c.). Chapters consider work by Ben Lerner, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Tom McCarthy, and Don DeLillo, among others, as well as work by key predecesors such as Henry James, Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, Gertrude Stein, James Baldwin, and W. G. Sebald.
The second project, "Covering the Novel," which is forthcoming from Ten Speed Press, is a collaborative venture with designer Peter Mendelsund that considers contemporary fiction and the art of the book cover. Through words and images, we examine the forms and functions of cover art from the vantage points of theory, history, culture, design, and literature. A sample essay is available here.
Other collaborative projects are also in the pipeline. With Matthew Hart of Columbia University, I'm guest-editing a special issue of ASAP/Journal on “Site Specificity Without Borders.” As a member of the editorial board for a new print and digital anthology of American literature (1492–present) that will be edited by Werner Sollors, Glenda Carpio, and Jeffrey Ferguson, I'm curating a cluster of texts and artifacts on “American Environments.”
I received my Ph.D. from the Department of English at the University of Chicago, where I was an Affiliated Fellow at the Franke Institute for the Humanities and a member of the Object Cultures Project. My scholarship has been generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Huntington Library.
If you'd like to talk about contemporary literature, visual art, design, or food cultures, please drop me a line.