I teach modern and contemporary American literature, economic history, and pop culture in the History & Literature program at Harvard. I'm also the Assistant Director of Studies for students in the American Studies and Ethnic Studies fields. My door is always open; please feel free to stop by with any questions about the concentration or ideas you're considering.
As a teacher and scholar, my work emphasizes the relationship between works of literature and culture and the historical conditions that surround, produce, and consume them. In my classes, my students and I seek to understand the ways that literature and history inform one another and can generate new ways of interpreting both. We also look at how different forms of media change our perceptions and reception of history, engaging popular culture, film, music, and more. Some of my favorite teaching experiences in Hist & Lit have been working with seniors writing theses on visual culture and popular media.
I received my PhD in English at Brown University in 2015 and am currently working on a book project entitled Black Market Realism: American Literature and the Risk Economy. This project focuses on the relationship between literature and history during the social and economic shift to neoliberalism after 1973. By examining how the black market economy functions in relation to the financial market--in which anything and everything is up for sale--I argue that the novel registers the ways in which economic transactions deal less in goods and services and increasingly more in risk and illusion. Literature's engagement with similar questions about reality and illusion offers a way of making sense not only of how markets construct economic relationships, but also how they reveal the social terms of the market economy. By looking at a variety of texts from the late 20th century, I show how American literature theorizes the market as a trade-off between moral judgment and economic choice in order to mitigate the consequences of individual risk.
I'm also at work on a project about genre and narrative form, which I call "systems reading," as a result of the management technologies that emerged after the second world war. As businesses leaders, policy makers, military strategists, and scientists became increasingly concerned about cause and effect, the language and logic of systems entered everyday life, including culture. This project examines how narrative--and its consumption--changed across media and genre. An article version about the speculative fiction novel and fears surrounding failed systems is forthcoming in NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction.
I also occasionally write about pop culture for The Atlantic; you can read some of my work listed under Publications.
You can reach me at allan[at]fas.harvard.edu