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Faculty Spotlight: Sean  Silver

Title: Associate Professor
Ph.D., UCLA  2008

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Research Interests

Primary Interests

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

Secondary Interests

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


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. Winner of the Kenshur Prize (ASECS, 2016) for "an outstanding monograph of interest to eighteenth-century scholars working in a range of disciplines."  Shortlisted for the British Society of Literature and Science best book prize (2016).   

Virtual Museum:

The Mind is a Collection
 is a virtual museum of eighteenth-century cognitive models.  An exhibit catalogue of the same name is published by Penn Press (see below).

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

Crafts of Enlightenment, workshop in progress.  We tend to think of the Enlightenment as the age of the triumph of Reason.  But historical forms of rational thought were developed through specific craft practices.  My ongoing effort is to recover the habits and practices of the architects of abstraction, including John Locke, Robert Hooke, and Joseph Addison.

Articles and Chapters:

"Crafts of Enlightenment: Laboring alongside Locke (and others)"
"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, 2016 (review essay)
"Hooke, Latour, and the History of Extended Cognition," Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 2016
"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
  • The Mind Is a Collection: Case Studies in Eighteenth-Century Thought

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