My first monograph:
(The University of Minnesota Press, Fall 2020)
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. My book was reviewed by Sophie Haigney in The Nation and given honorable mention for the Modernist Studies Association's First Book Prize.
I am currently at work on two related projects:
The first is a short trade book, Computer Love
In the 1980s, as personal computers flooded the markets and people's homes, they raised questions and fueled speculations about matters of the heart. Computer Love is a book about these speculations, about the way that computers and romance have always been intertwined. More narrowly, it is a book about the fantasies, predictions, hopes, and fears that circulated during the 1980s about computers and what impact they would have on our love lives. Pop culture in the decade of Pac-Man and Perestroika was filled with images of computer love. Sometimes strange and often silly, these images reveal the historically-specific dreams and nightmares that people attached to a relatively new technology; they also tell stories about our age-old desire for connection. This entertaining, accessible book examines movies, television shows, commercials, and pop songs from the 1980s in order to chronicle the things we imagined computers would do to love and to consider what our ideas of love may have done to computers.
The second book is a scholarly monograph,
Digital Intimacy: American Love Stories in the Age of the Internet
It charts the effects of digitality on ideas of love and how they are represented in contemporary American and Anglophone fiction. The very concepts of love and intimacy appear to be undergoing radical transformations due to the innovations of the digital age: instant and constant communication, matches made by dating site algorithms, social media that seem to simultaneously increase our sense of connectivity and of solitude. Recent narratives—novels by Chang-Rae Lee, Patricia Lockwood, Lauren Oyler, Sally Rooney and Zadie Smith—have begun to register these transformations and to ask if the nature of love indeed is changing in response to new technologies. By looking back to earlier texts that also address the imbrication of technology and love, I argue that despite the fast-paced transformations of technology, enduring, analog ideas of love persist in unlikely forms. Simulation becomes stimulation, for example, and fantasy and projection emerge as structures inherent to the love story, even when it transpires online. Digital Romance suggests that we can understand the current climate in which Internet practices seem to be reshaping love by turning to fiction that exposes the long-standing relation between forms of desire and forms of communication.
A recent edited volume:
Modelwork: The Material Culture of Making and Knowing
This volume, co-edited with Martin Brückner and Sandy Isenstadt, was published in October 2021 by the University of Minnesota Press and is available for purchase here. It investigates how modeling entails a movement between the material and immaterial. Rapidly expanding digital and computational technologies have made modeling in the twenty-first century a seemingly intangible process: today the term is more likely to conjure databases and algorithms than replicas and miniatures. But modeling in any field has always involved reaching into the unseen, the not-yet, or even the long-gone to make present an object or an idea. Analogue practices of modeling, whether used for anatomical instruction, the procurement of patents, or architectural design, can illuminate how contemporary practices of modeling draw on earlier forms and processes. 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. With its range of topics, it appeals to scholars and students in the humanities, readers interested in material culture, and anyone curious about the significance and history of models.