Relevant Degree Programs
Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
“The Daemonology of Unplumbed Space: Weird Fiction, Disgust, and the Aesthetics of the Unthinkable” explores the aesthetic and metaphysical significance of disgust in weird fiction. Beginning with the weird’s forefather, Edgar Allan Poe, the study traces the twisted entanglement of metaphysics, aesthetics, affect, and weird fiction through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, considering along the way the myriad attempts of authors such as Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, and H.P. Lovecraft to stage encounters with the unthinkable. Drawing on recent philosophical efforts to reinvigorate metaphysical thought – including speculative realism and new materialism – as well as affect theory, the dissertation argues that in contrast with earlier Gothic writers, whose focus on sublime aesthetic experience reified the importance and power of the human subject and entertained fantasies of spiritual transcendence, authors of weird fiction exploit the viscerality of disgust to confront readers with the impermanence and instability of a subject polluted by nonhuman forces which seep into it from the world around it. In doing so, weird fiction helps us to think about the nature of this queasy, nonhuman world, to glimpse an existence beyond the world merely as it appears to us. By investigating the intertwinement of the aesthetics of disgust and metaphysical speculation about the nonhuman world, the dissertation expands our understanding of weird fiction and the study of affect in literature. It thus contributes to a growing understanding of weird fiction as more than a pulp, essentially commercial genre, rather interpreting the weird as literature of ecstatic yearning for a non-anthropocentric reality, literature which dwells on questions of being, becoming, and the ultimate nature of the universe.
Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
In this thesis, I discuss the 1938 radio play The War of the Worlds, analyzing the circumstances of its broadcast, its representation of apocalypse, and its manipulation of the medium of radio through its form of a simulated news program. I propose that the immediate hysteria it caused and the enduring anxieties it left were because of its medium more than any verisimilitude achieved in its tired and recycled narrative of Martian invasion. I consider qualities of radio as a telecommunicative and single-sensory medium, the demands of apocalyptic representation, and how the broadcast manipulated these qualities of radio to satisfy these representational demands, thus portraying an account of simulated apocalypse that was, on a formal and medial level, indistinguishable from a real one over the radio. Borrowing from the work of Richard Berger, I discuss how apocalyptic representation must occur immediately and immanently with the apocalypse itself; that is, the representation must be separated neither by time nor space with what it represents, right until the annihilating end. While many media cannot facilitate these demands of apocalyptic representation, instead reverting to prophetic or post-apocalyptic representation, I suggest that telecommunicative media are able to navigate the demands of truly apocalyptic representation through their overcoming of spatial separation and temporal delay. Working with the theory of Andrew Crisell, I consider the single-sensory nature of the medium of radio, and its propensity to render real and imaginary events indistinguishable. As a purely acoustic medium, radio necessarily incites an indexical process while simultaneously prohibiting its completion. Because radio prohibits the ability to index a sound with a particular source, and its specific temporal and spatial location, it creates a level playing field for reality and simulation where the two cannot be differentiated. As such, broadcast sounds become untethered from their particular source, ungrounded in time, space, and even reality. Thus, War was able to represent a simulated apocalypse indiscernible from a real one because of the single-sensory nature of radio, and satisfy the demands of apocalyptic representation with the immanency and immediacy inherent to the telecommunicative medium of its broadcast.