Professor and Chair
I primarily teach courses in contemporary American literature and popular culture, exploring the ways that authors, filmmakers, and other artists have explored and critiqued the conditions of contemporary life through their creative work. My courses are centered around vigorous class discussion and frequent short written responses, culminating in a final research project on a subject of each student’s choosing. I find that this approach to learning encourages my students to seek interdisciplinary connections between the subjects of my courses and their own work in other classes and majors, fostering their development as independent thinkers and scholars. I have always been struck by Kenneth Burke’s characterization of academic discourse in “The Philosophy of Literary Form” as a discussion at a party to which we arrive late and from which we must also depart early. I feel the most important work we can do as educators in the humanities is to position our students to enter such conversations across the academy and across society at large: to provide students with access to what has already been said, to help them express themselves knowledgeably with eloquence and poise, and to instill within them the confidence that what they have to say genuinely matters.
My research and publication has primarily focused on one of the most culturally important and globally influential genres of the postwar United States: science fiction. In my work I seek to establish science fiction as a cornerstone for literary study and critical theory, as well as speak to larger questions about the role of the imagination in political and cultural life. My study of science fiction reveals a paradigm that fundamentally structures the way we think about the world; where once the hegemonic language of the future was religious eschatology, I believe it is now predominantly the speculations of science fiction that frame our collective imagination of our possible futures. In our moment, it is science fiction that attempts to articulate the sorts of massive social changes that are imminent, or already happening, and begins to imagine what life on a transformed globe might be like for those who will come to live on it.
I regularly offer courses in 20th and 21st century literature, science fiction, comic books, and the fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien. In 2022, I was honored with the Robert and Mary Gettel Teaching Excellence Award as well as the Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service from the Science Fiction Research Association.
- Twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature and culture
- Popular culture
- Contemporary world literature
- Literary and critical theory
- Science fiction
- Literature and popular culture
- Critical theory
- Transnational American studies
- Ecological humanities
“Wakanda Forever? On Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018).” Contemporary American Cinema: The Science Fiction Film, eds. Terence McSweeney and Stuart Joy (2022)
Co-Editor, Uneven Futures: Lessons for Community Survival from Speculative Fiction
“Science Fiction and Utopia in the Anthropocene.” American Literature 93.2 (June 2021)
Editor, Octavia E. Butler: Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories. New York: Library of America
“‘We Are Terror Itself’: Wakanda as Nation.” Literary Afrofuturism in the 21st Century. Ed. Isiah Lavender III and Lisa Yaszek. Ohio State University Press, 2020
“The Legend of Zelda in the Anthropocene.” Paradoxa 31: “Climate Fictions” (2020)
Co-Editor with Eric Carl Link. The Cambridge History of Science Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019
“Eden, Just Not Ours Yet: On Parable of the Trickster and Utopia.” Women’s Studies 48 (2019): tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00497878.2018.1559410
“Utopia.” The Bloomsbury Companion to Marx. Eds. Jeff Diamanti, Andrew Pendakis and Imre Szeman. New York: Bloomsbury, 2019.
“When It Changed: 1973.” Timelines of American Literature. Eds. Cody Marrs and Christopher Hager. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2019
Co-Editor with James B. South, Slayage 16.2 (2018): “Buffy at 20.”
“Peak Oil after Hydrofracking.” Materialism and the Critique of Energy. Eds. Brent Bellamy and Jeff Diamanti. Chicago: MCM Prime Press, 2018.
"OBEY, CONSUME: Class Struggle as Revenge Fantasy in They Live.” Film International 14.3-4: “The Lives and Deaths of the Yuppie” (2017): 72-84.
- “New Paradigms, After 2001.” Science Fiction: A Literary History. London, UK: British Library, 2017. 26 pages.
- Co-Editor with Ben Robertson, Extrapolation 58.2-3: “Guilty Pleasures: Mere Genre and Late Capitalism,” 2017
- “Hokey Religions: Star Wars and Star Trek in the Age of Reboots.” Extrapolation 58.2-3 (2017): 153-180.
- Octavia E. Butler, University of Illinois Press, 2016
- Co-edited a special issue of the journal Paradoxa (issue 28) titled "Global Weirding." (2016)
- "Death Immortalized." The New Inquiry (October 2016). http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/death-immortalized
- "We Have Never Been Star Trek." British Sight & Sound (September 2016): http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/features/star-trek-50-we-have-never-been-star-trek
- “Quiet, Too Quiet: Review of Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest.” Los Angeles Review of Books (February 2016)
- "From 'A New Hope' to No Hope at All: 'Star Wars,' Tolkien, and the Sinister and Depressing Reality of Expanded Universes." Salon.com (December 2015): http://www.salon.com/2015/12/24/from_a_new_hope_to_no_hope_at_all_
- "Capital as Artificial Intelligence.” Journal of American Studies: “Fictions of Speculation” (October 2015), eds. Annie McClanahan and Hamilton Carroll: 1-25.
- “Anything Could Happen (And We Would Believe It).” New Orleans Review 41 (2015): 223-226.
- “The Warm Equations.” Los Angeles Review of Books. June 2015.
- Co-Editor with Eric Carl Link, The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction(Cambridge University Press, 2015).
- Editor, Science Fiction Film and Television (Liverpool University Press, 2014-).
- Editor, Extrapolation (Liverpool University Press, 2014-).
- Co-Editor with Kim Stanley Robinson, Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction(Wesleyan University Press, 2014).
- “Knowing No One’s Listening: Octavia Butler’s Unexpected Stories” and “‘There’s Nothing New / Under The Sun, / But There Are New Suns’: Recovering Octavia E. Butler’s Lost Parables.” Los Angeles Review of Books (Summer 2014).
- "I'd Rather Be in Afghanistan: Antinomies of Battle: Los Angeles." Democratic Communique 26.2: "Media, Technology, and the Culture of Militarism: Watching, Playing and Struggling in the War Society." Eds. Robin Andersen and Tanner Mirrlees (Fall 2014): 39-54.
- "If the Engine Ever Stops, We'd All Die': Snowpiercer and Necrofuturism." Paradoxa26: "SF Now." Eds. Mark Bould and A. Rhys Williams (Fall 2014): 41-66.
- “Bred to Be Superhuman: Comic Books and Afrofuturism in Octavia Butler's Patternist Series.” Paradoxa 25 (Fall 2013): 253-287.
- “Life Without Hope? Huntington’s Disease and Genetic Futurity.” Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure. Ed. Kathryn Allan. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013: 169-187.
- “Hope, But Not for Us: Ecological Science Fiction and the End of the World in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood." Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory 23.2 (Summer 2012): 138-159.
- “Fighting a War You’ve Already Lost: Zombies and Zombis in Firefly and Dollhouse.” Science Fiction Film and Television 4.2 (Fall 2011): 173-204.
- Co-Editor with Priscilla Wald, American Literature 83.2: “Speculative Fictions” (2011).
- “‘We Are the Walking Dead’: Race, Time, and Survival in Zombie Narrative.” Extrapolation 51.3 (Fall 2010): 431-453.
- Co-Editor with Lisa Klarr and Ryan Vu, Polygraph 22: “Ecology and Ideology” (2010).
Honors and Awards
Robert and Mary Gettel Teaching Excellence Award, 2022
Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service from the Science Fiction Research Association, 2022
President of the Science Fiction Research Association, 2020-2023
- Won the Way-Klingler Young Scholar Award, 2016.
- NEH course development grant: "Enduring Questions: What Is Worth Preserving?"
- Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Fellowship for Undergraduate Instruction, Duke University (2011-2012)
- R.D. Mullen Research Fellowship, Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Utopian Literature, University of California, Riverside (2010-2011)
- Travel Grants to the Nagoya American Studies Summer Seminar at Nanzan University, Japan, and the Clinton Institute for American Studies, University College Dublin, Ireland (2010, 2011)
- Jacob K. Javits Fellowship for Graduate Study in the Humanities (2002-2004)
- 3241/104 Online J-session
- 4765/101 MWF 10:00-10:50 Cudahy Hall 114