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), I have taught at GW since 1994.
My research examines phenomena that are paradoxically alien and yet intimate to the human. Among the longest abiding of the topics I've explored is what monsters reveal about the cultures that dream them. This research has been my most influential, 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 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 English triumph; how postcolonial studies, queer theory, critical race studies and posthumanism might help us to better understand the texts and cultures of the Middle Ages (and might be transformed by that encounter); the complexities of time and history when thought outside of progress narratives; the new materialism and other methods for discerning the complicated life of what is supposed to be inanimate. Much of my current research brings to fruition a longtime engagement with environmental studies and ecological theory.
My forthcoming book is entitled 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 power 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. This project marks an ecological deepening in my research and a turn towards thinking more rigorously (and creatively) about the inhuman. With Lowell Duckert I edited a special issue of a special issue of the journal postmedieval on ecomaterialism. We are working together 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 a volume for Oliphaunt Books called Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects (released by punctum books as an open access work and available as a free download).
I serve on the editorial board of punctum books 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.
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