Carnegie Mellon University

Professor of English, Director of Graduate Studies

Address Department of English, Carnegie Mellon University, Baker Hall 259, 5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890


I teach and write about the novel, especially contemporary American fiction, and about modern criticism and theory. I’m interested in the politics of literature and culture, in particular the institutions that make culture. To that end, I’ve written a good deal about the American university, for instance the ways that student debt constitutes a kind of indentured servitude.

My first book, Theory and the Novel: Narrative Reflexivity in the British Tradition (Cambridge, 1998), deals with English and American fiction from the eighteenth century to the twentieth, although more recently I’ve concentrated on contemporary fiction, one result of which is “The Plutocratic Imagination” in Dissent 2013, and another the influence of generations in recent fiction in the Chronicle of Higher Education. On criticism and theory, along with essays such as “The Rise of the Theory Journal” (NLH 2009), I am an editor of The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2001; 2nd ed. 2010), and I have interviewed a great many critics, theorists, and philosophers, which have appeared in Symploke, Boundary 2, and minnesota review (a selection is gathered in Critics at Work: Interviews 1993-2003 (NYU P, 2004)). I’ve also published the edited collections PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy (Routledge, 1995), The Institution of Literature (SUNY, 2001), and The Critical Pulse: Thirty-six Critics Give their Credos (co-ed., Columbia UP, 2012).

On the sorry state of American higher education, I have published many essays such as, "Debt Education: Bad for the Young, Bad for America" and "Are Students the New Indentured Servants?", which are part of a forthcoming book, Brave New University, and I edit a new series from Johns Hopkins University Press on “Critical University Studies.”

I think that criticism should be more responsible to, and responsive to, a general public than it usually is, so I write regularly for venues like Dissent, Salon, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as academic journals. A new selection of my writing appears in How to Be an Intellectual: Essays on Criticism, Culture, and Politics (Fordham, 2014).

Curriculum Vitae