Professor, Director of Graduate Studies

For CV click here

My research focuses on post-WWII American fiction, the relation between literature and philosophy, and the intersection of these two areas. In particular I’ve been interested in how the language of agency and purpose survives in a reductively naturalistic culture, and how different authors, texts, and genres talk about varying levels of meaningful behavior—from particular utterances and acts to individual lives to collective projects and cultural practices.

My published work includes The Matter of High Words: Naturalism, Normativity, and the Postwar Sage (Oxford, 2017) and Worldly Acts and Sentient Things: The Persistence of Agency from Stein to DeLillo (Cornell, 2008), as well as articles on Richard Powers, Lorrie Moore, Philip Roth, Stanley Cavell, Wittgenstein, pragmatism, and evolutionary and cognitive theory.

I have received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities (2013-14); the BU Center for the Humanities (2009-10); the Humboldt Foundation (2006-7); and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (2003-4). My teaching covers a wide range of twentieth-century literature, theory, and intellectual history, and includes “Philosophical Fictions,” “Irony and Postwar Literature,” “The Sixties in Fiction and Theory,” “Fictions of the Fifties,” “Reading After Wittgenstein,” and “Knowing, Feeling, Judging (Kant and 20th Century Aesthetics).” I have also taught surveys of post-WWII American fiction and the history of criticism and theory from Plato to Freud.

Since 2018, I have also been the organizer of the BU Workshop on Literature, Philosophy, and Aesthetics, an annual meeting of literary scholars and philosophers:

Selected Publications
  • The Matter of High Words: Naturalism, Norms, and the Postwar Sage (Oxford, 2017)
  • Worldly Acts and Sentient Things: The Persistence of Agency from Stein to DeLillo (Cornell, 2008)
  • Wittgenstein and Literature, co-edited with John Gibson (Cambridge, forthcoming)
  • “Appreciating Materials: Literature, Science, and the Very Idea of Method,” in Wittgenstein and Literature (forthcoming)
  • “Experts and Encounters,” PMLA (2020)
  • “Doing Art and Doing Other Things: On Michaels on Photography,” nonsite (2020)
  • “Response to Revolution of the Ordinary: Literary Studies After Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell, by Toril Moi”; nonsite (2019)
  • “Agency,” in Bloomsbury Handbook to Literary and Cultural Theory (Bloomsbury, 2018)
  • “Is a Narrative a Something or a Nothing?” in Wittgenstein on Aesthetic Understanding (2016)
  • “That Horeb, That Kansas: Evolution and the Modernity of Marilynne Robinson.” American Literary History (2016)
  • “The Novel,” in Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Literature (2016)
  • “Is Style Information?” Partial Answers (2013)
  • “The American Evasion of Pragmatism: Minds, Souls, and the Case of Walker Percy.” nonsite (2011)
  • “Empiricism, Exhaustion, and Meaning What We Say: Cavell and Contemporary Fiction,” in Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies: Consequences of Skepticism (2011)
  • “Philosophy and the American Novel,” in Cambridge History of the American Novel (2011)
  • “Evolution and Explanation: Biology, Aesthetics, Pragmatism,” Contemporary Pragmatism (2010)
  • “A Commitment to the Meaningful,” Twentieth-Century Literature (2008)
  • “Naturalism and Narrative, or, What Computers and Human Beings Can’t Do,” New Literary History (2007)
  • “Jokes, Fiction, and Lorrie Moore,” Twentieth-Century Literature (2006)
  • “Fictions Public and Private: On Philip Roth,” Contemporary Literature (2005)
  • “Sense, Science, and the Interpretations of Gertrude Stein,” Modernism/Modernity (2005)
Honors, Grants, and Awards
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2013-14
  • BU Humanities Foundation Fellowship (20089)
  • Humboldt Research Fellowship (20067)
  • Visiting Scholar, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (20034)
  • Mabel McLeod Lewis Fellowship (20023)
  • Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Stipendium (1999)