As a scholar, I work at the intersections of literary studies, environmental studies, and American studies, bringing literary methods and objects into dynamic conversation with broader questions of social and environmental justice.
My book in progress, "Genre Frictions: Structural Violence, Activist Forms, and American Literature," explores how structural understandings of violence that began to emerge in the 1960s shaped both American fiction and American social movements from the 1970s to the present. In five chapters, I trace the development of a formal feature that I call “genre friction”—the politically productive tension that emerges when texts shift between realistic and speculative genres—and show how genre experimentation often responds to the same social issues and representational pressures as contemporaneous activism. Drawing on theories of genre’s world-structuring dimensions, I formulate three political functions of genre friction: defamiliarization, or the representation of the familiar in alienating and provocative ways; cognitive mapping, or the mediation of complex systems in relation to the individual; and prefiguration, or the imagination of desirable alternatives. In chapters that take up surrealism, magical realism, apocalypse, and the gothic, I show how these political functions allow literature to reckon with extractivism, exposure and environmental risk, climate justice, and infrastructural violence. Genre friction, I argue, is thus not only a defining feature of contemporary fiction, but also a powerful strategy for integrating the difficult knowledge of slow, structural, and environmental harm into everyday life. Some of the novelists whose work I engage across this project include Ana Castillo, Junot Díaz, Ruth Ozeki, Ishmael Reed, Leslie Marmon Silko, Jesmyn Ward, and Colson Whitehead. An article drawn from the final chapter from that project, tracing the afterlife of the plantation in petrochemical and carceral infrastructure in the U.S. South and the treatment of these post-plantation legacies in gothic fiction by Black writers, was published in American Literature in fall 2021.
I have also begun work on several further projects: one reading adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha’s powerful conception of “visionary fiction” as a way to rethink the concrete political potential of literature in the context of the “post-critical” turn; the other addressing the environmental affects and politics proffered by Afrofuturist fiction and film; and a third on the representation of various forms of media in Anthropocene novels, and what they might reveal about the state of the literary in contemporary culture. Meanwhile, my work at the intersections of contemporary literature, SF, and environmental humanities has appeared in ASAP/Journal, Science Fiction Studies, Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, The Cambridge History of Science Fiction, An Ecotopian Lexicon, and Women's Studies Quarterly, and is forthcoming in The New Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature, and This Is Not a Science Fiction Textbook (Goldsmiths/MIT, co-authored with undergraduate collaborators). I regularly write for the Science Fiction section of the Los Angeles Review of Books, appeared on a 2022 episode of the podcast Novel Dialogue in conversation with Ruth Ozeki, and have contributed review essays to American Literature and Public Books. As part of the Triangle Editorial Collective, I also served as one of the editors of The Palgrave Handbook of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature and Science (2020).