U-M Department of English
U-M English Home


Faculty Spotlight: Sean  Silver

Title: Associate Professor
Ph.D., UCLA  2008

Contact Info


3180 AH


Monday 3-5pm







Departmental Profile:

» View


» Launch

Research Interests

Primary Interests

British Literature and Culture, 1640 to 1800; cognitive studies; material culture; museum studies; historical aesthetics; accidents.

Secondary Interests

Colonial and Antebellum American Literature; food studies; history of medicine and science; historical drama and performance theory; game theory; Herman Melville.


Virtual Museum:

The Mind is a Collection
 is a virtual museum of eighteenth-century cognitive models.  Each of the museum's six spaces is organized as a series of linked exhibits that speak to a single aspect of Enlightenment philosophies of mind.  From its first space, on metaphor, to the last one, on dispossession, The Mind is a Collection looks at ways that abstract theories referred to cognitive ecologies; it houses objects from eighteenth-century libraries, workshops, notebooks, collections, and gardens, systems which were crafted to enable certain kinds of thinking.  In doing so, it demonstrates the crossings-over of material into ideal, ideal into material, and the ways in which an idea might repeatedly turn up in an object, or a range of objects might repeatedly stand for an idea.  The museum can be found at www.mindisacollection.org; an exhibit catalogue of the same name is forthcoming from Penn Press later this year (2015, see below).

Books in Print:

The Mind is a Collection: Case Studies in Eighteenth-Century Thought (Penn, 2015).  Organized as the exhibit catalogue of an online museum of eighteenth-century objects, The Mind Is a Collection approaches seventeenth- and eighteenth-century metaphors of the mind from a material point of view.  
Books in Progress:

Six Memos for the New Enlightenment: Art in the Information Age (manuscript in progress).  This book traces the prehistory of six concepts (information, irony, complexity, emergence, accident, and invention) as they underwent critical transformations in the literature and arts of the long eighteenth century.

An Almanac of Accidents, manuscript in progress.  Inspired by a mistranslation of Lucretius-- "Every accident has its season"-- I am currently collecting records of, responses to, or theories about accidents, from roughly 1650 to the present day, and organizing them by the month of the calendar year in which those accidents occurred.  Chapters so far include November ("Hurricane Season"), December ("Recollection"), April ("Memory and Desire"), August ("Plague").

Articles and Chapters:

"Locke's Apple and the Sensation of Property."  article in progress
"Cognitive Crusoe."  article in progress
"Complexity in the Eighteenth-Century Arts."  article in progress
"The Material of Material History: John Evelyn and Numismata," Word and Image, 2015
"The Pleasures of Horace Walpole," Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 2015 (review essay)
"Hooke, Latour, and the History of Extended Cognition," Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 2015
"The Prehistory of Serendipity: Bacon to Walpole," Isis, 2015
"The Social Construction of 'Social Imaginaries.'"  article in progress
"Gothic Historiography," The Gothic World (Routledge 2013)
"Pale Fire and Johnson's Cat: The Anecdote in Polite Conversation," Criticism, 2011
"The Rape of the Lock and the Origins of Game Theory," Connotations, 2011
"Visiting Strawberry Hill: Horace Walpole's Gothic Historiography," Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 2009
"Locke's Pineapple and the History of Taste," Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 2008
"The Temporality of Allegory: Herman Melville's 'The Lightning-Rod Man,'" Arizona Quarterly, 2006

Spotlighted Faculty

This user does not currently have this information in our system.

Dept. of English Language and Literature

home mission statement sitemap contact

U-M English on Facebook
U-M English on Facebook
U-M English on iTunes U
U-M English on YouTube

435 S. State Street, 3187 Angell Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003
Phone: (734) 764-6330 Fax: (734) 763-3128