Welcome. I teach U.S. literature, science and technology studies, and digital humanities at the University of Arizona. My research examines the roles of science and technology in post-1945 U.S. literature and culture.
My first book, Human Programming: Brainwashing, Automatons, and American Unfreedom, was published by the University of Minnesota Press in August 2016. It examines how ideas about manipulating human behavior have circulated between scientific, literary, cinematic, and political culture in the U.S., from World War II to the War on Terror. The book shows how novelists and filmmakers have used the figure of the “human automaton” as a means of exploring the meanings of democracy, totalitarianism, and fundamentalism.
I talked about Human Programming for exactly 90 seconds on WAMC Public Radio’s Academic Minute and for about an hour with Carl Nellis of the New Books Network. The Los Angeles Review of Books ran a review, “No Mind to Lose: On Brainwashing.” The book was a finalist for the 2017 Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Kendrick Memorial Book Prize, and it received an honorable mention for UC Riverside’s 2017 Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Program Book Prize.
I’m currently at work on a second book, tentatively titled “Social Medium: American Fictions of the Network Society.” It examines how contemporary U.S. novels pose questions about media technology, connection, and action through their use of a formal feature I call the character network. This web of connections between characters, a feature of all fiction, becomes the site of sustained reflection for American fiction since the 1980s, when networks became a dominant metaphor in business discourse, communications media, and political and critical theory. More than other new media forms, literary fiction uses these networks self-reflexively to explore how facets of the self in the contemporary U.S.—our identities, privacy, creativity, and agency—are defined by our positioning within social networks. Borrowing from qualitative sociological work in network analysis, “Social Medium” explores how the shape of a social world, fictional or otherwise, might constrain and enable self-expression, cooperation, and action.
I’ve published two articles from the book in progress. The first, “The Bechdel Test and the Social Form of Character Networks” claims that Alison Bechdel’s popular feminist test for films offers the beginnings of a theory of community in fictional narrative. The second, “The Novel and WikiLeaks: Transparency and the Social Life of Privacy,” describes fiction’s model of privacy not as an aspect of individual interiority, but rather as the power to manage information among different groups of people. Other chapters in progress consider recent fiction about creative work in the context of business networking discourse, and fiction and academic work that depict and reflect on grassroots political movements.
“The Novel and WikiLeaks: Transparency and the Social Life of Privacy,” in American Literary History, 2018
“Social Networks,” in American Literature in Transition, 2000-2010 (Cambridge, 2017)
“Digital Humanities Knowledge: Reflections on the Introductory Graduate Syllabus,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016 (Minnesota, 2016)
“The Bechdel Test and the Social Form of Character Networks” New Literary History, 2015 (Ralph Cohen Prize)
”‘Stutter-Stop Flash-Bulb Strange’: GMOs and the Aesthetics of Scale in Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl,” Science Fiction Studies, 2015 (SFRA Pioneer Award)
“Simply by Reacting?: The Sociology of Race and Invisible Man’s Automata,” American Literature, 2010 (Norman Foerster Prize)