Short Biography

[Now in Print! Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman]

I am a Professor of English and the Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (MEMSI) at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. Born in Cambridge, MA and educated at the University of Rochester (where I studied English, creative writing and classics) and Harvard University (PhD in English and American Literature and Language), I have taught at GW since 1994.

My research examines phenomena at once alien and intimate. Much of my scholarly and teaching energy has been directed towards exploring what monsters reveal about the cultures that dream them. This research has had wide appeal, leading to a stint as an expert witness on a copyright lawsight involving the Pixar film Monsters Inc., a part in a History Channel documentary on dragons, and a consultant gig for a children's book on big monsters (as well as several scholarly books, essays, and conference keynotes). I've also worked on the multilingual literatures of the British archipelago and how they contest an easy narrative of the triumph of English; how queer theory, critical race studies and posthumanism might help us to better understand the texts and cultures of the Middle Ages, and  how our contemporary moment might be transformed by that encounter; the complexities of time and history when thought outside of easy progress narratives; and the complicated liveliness of what is supposed to be inanimate. Much of my current research brings to fruition a longtime engagement with the environmental humanities and ecological theory. I am a founding member of the MLA Forum on Ecocriticism and Environmental Humanities and an active member of ASLE.

My most recent book is Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (University of Minnesota Press, May 2015). The project was generously funded by fellowships from the ACLS and the Guggenheim Foundation, and investigates the active and abiding companionship of our most seemingly inert substance. Research for this book brought me around the world: Salisbury Plain, London, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Victoria (Australia), Bordeaux, and southwest Iceland. With Lowell Duckert I also edited a special issue of a special issue of the journal postmedieval on ecomaterialism. We have collaborated on an edited collection on this same topic, Elemental Ecocriticism (University of Minnesota Press, 2015). I also have edited a well reviewed collection of essays on Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory Beyond Green, and two volumes for Oliphaunt Books: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects and Inhuman Nature (released by punctum books as an open access work and available as a free download). My next project is a short book called Earth, co-written with planetary scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University.

I serve on the editorial board of punctum books, Object LessonsEcocritical Theory and Practice, and postmedieval. A selection of my books and other publications may be accessed through this website. I founded the group blog In the Middle, where along with Eileen Joy, Karl Steel, Jonathan Hsy and Mary Kate Hurley I am an active blogger. Much of my work in progress appears there. I am also active on Twitter and believe strongly that all humanities scholarship must engage as diverse a public as possible.

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