The Death of Things is the first comprehensive study to address the role that ephemera—objects marked by their imminent disappearance or destruction—play in 20th century fiction. The disappearing object, so definitive of post-industrial culture, is central in literature seeking to represent the experience of perpetual change and loss. Attention to these objects animates my project, which takes its cue from recent work done under the rubric of “thing theory.” If objects have lives of their own, what happens when they die? From the paper-mâché palaces of World’s Fairs to the abraded edges of postage stamps, disappearing objects intrigue writers like Don DeLillo, Ralph Ellison, and Marilynne Robinson, elegists of the waning promises of American modernity. In my account, post-45 U.S. fiction responds to the vanishing object-world in ways that are both melancholic and transformative. Bringing material culture studies into dialogue with psychoanalytic theory, I argue that literary portraits of our vanishing stuff never allow us to let go of or to fully possess our belongings.
Modelwork: The Material Culture of Making and Knowing. With Martin Brückner and Sandy Isenstadt, Eds. (Forthcoming with the University of Minnesota Press in 2021).
With entries on Sensing, Knowing, Making, and Doing, this volume makes clear that regardless of time period or physical media, modeling invokes particular registers of phenomenology and epistemology; as a facsimile of a thing or a process, it inevitably creates ways of sensing, knowing, and operating in the world. The volume points toward larger conceptual debates about the way in which models of the past as well as new digital ones—models within models—profoundly shape the world around us. Contributors include Johanna Drucker, Peter Galison, Lisa Gitelman, Annabel Wharton, and several others.
Obsolescence is fundamental to the experience of modernity, not simply one dimension of an economic system. The contributors to this book investigate obsolescence as a historical phenomenon, an aesthetic practice, and an affective mode. This volume thus brings together essays from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives on the topic of obsolescence. Contributors include Bill Brown, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, John Durham Peters, Susan Strasser, William Urrichio and several others.
“Representation.” In The Cambridge University Press Handbook of Material Culture Studies. Eds. Lu Ann De Cunzo and Catherine Dann Roeber. Forthcoming in 2021.
“‘And things were looking like a movie’: Suburban Chic and the 1980s.” In On Style: Collected Essays. Eds. Jasmin Dücker, Olga Tarapata, and Eleana Vaja. Routledge, Forthcoming Spring 2019.
“Spaß mit der Future-Past: Coney Island und die Obsoleszenz.” In Obsoleszenz: Kulturelle Figurationen des (Nicht-mehr-)Besonderen. Eds. Dietrich Boschung and Günter Blamberger. Fink Verlag, Winter 2019.
“No Place Like Home: 9/11 Nostalgia and Spike Lee’s 25th Hour” REAL: Research in English and American Literature, Vol. 27. Series Eds. Winifried Fluck and Donald Pease. Tuebingen: Narr Verlag, 2011.
“Digital Intimacies: Slow Fish in a Swift Sea.” Column in Flaunt Magazine, September 2018.
“What’s Old in New America.” Column in Flaunt Magazine, September 2017.
Book Review: Amnesia and Redress in Contemporary American Fiction by Marni Gauthier. MFS Modern Fiction Studies. Volume 59, number 4. Winter 2013. 880-883.