I'm a scholar of 18th- and 19th-century French literature and culture, and I've also published extensively in literary and cultural theory, concentrating on the forms and institutions of modern literature and their relations to science, technology, history, and society. My last book was an essay on the state of literary studies in the economically, ecologically, and technologically transformed world of the turn of the millennium. Its central questions were whether, how, and why literary culture, increasingly seen as residual in an age of electronic and audiovisual culture, can serve as a resource for knowing and experiencing the world. My current book project, “Reading in Real Time,” is an attempt to situate literary production and reception—and also literary and cultural study—in the dynamics of passing time, with particular emphasis on the ways in which Enlightenment and modernist critical impulses, attuned to the present and future, now constitute a major part of the cultural past, remaining of interest largely to the extent that their critiques, far from having changed the world and thus made themselves obsolete, remain relevant today.
I am also increasingly interested in the Spanish language, which I've learned to speak in recent years, and its literatures.
Recent and Selected Publications
The Noise of Culture: Literary Texts in a World of Information. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.
Literary Culture in a World Transformed: A Future for the Humanities. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.
"Come Rain or Shine." SubStance, no. 100 (2003): 50-53.
Recent graduate courses taught:
Balzac and Flaubert
Enlightenment and its Discontents
Theory for the 21st Century
Enlightenment in Context, Then and Now
Recent undergraduate courses taught:
First-Year Seminar: Reading in Real Time
Seminar in Practical French Translation
Critical Fictions, Critical Writing