Research

(The University of Minnesota Press, Fall 2020), is an interdisciplinary study that explores the stories of loss told by the vanishing objects in contemporary American literature and popular culture.From the paper-maché palaces of the Chicago Columbian Exposition to the abraded edges and smeared ink of missing persons fliers that covered Manhattan after 9/11; from the newspapers in Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (1900) to the debris in Don DeLillo’s Underworld (1997), ephemeral objects demand a reckoning with loss that remains inimical to the American culture of production and consumption. My project unfolds as a series of case studies in which I examine pivotal episodes of 20th and 21st century American life through those episodes’ transient objects and the contemporary narratives that archive those objects. I demonstrate how attention to the ephemeral shatters the illusion of permanence, thereby exposing modes of longing such as utopianism, revisionism, and nostalgia as untenable and supplanting them with an orientation to the present. In uncovering the significance of these enigmatic objects, my work brings together literary analysis, psychoanalytic theory, and material culture studies.

Death Of Things

My current book project is tentatively titled:

Digital Intimacy: American Love Stories in the Age of the Internet.

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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 Jennifer Egan, Chang-Rae Lee, Gary Shteyngart, and Zadie Smith, as well as films such as Her and Ex-Machina –have begun to register these transformations and to ask if the nature oloveipadf 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.

An edited volume:

Modelwork: The Material Culture of Making and Knowing

which I worked on with Martin Brückner and Sandy Isenstadt, is forthcoming with the University of Minnesota Press in 2021. The volume 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.

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Questions or Comments?