You are here: Home People Matt Tierney
Matt Tierney

Matt Tierney

Assistant Professor of English

Office: 206 Burrowes Building
Mailroom: 430 Burrowes Building

Office Hours:

  • On leave Fall 2017


  1. Ph.D. in Modern Culture and Media, Brown University, 2012
  2. M.A. in Literature, University of California-Santa Cruz, 2006
  3. A.B. with honors in American Studies, Cornell University, 1999

Professional Bio

My fields include media theory, cultural studies, and the literature and film of the United States. My particular interest is in Twentieth-Century aesthetic interventions into the politics of race, gender, and technology. My first book, entitled What Lies Between: Void Aesthetics & Postwar Post-Politics (2015), explored formal experiments in literature and film that disrupt the myths of communication culture and consensus post-politics in the years following World War II. Reviewed in American Literature, the field's principal journal, the book was credited with "powerfully...rehistoricizing American studies to crack open the black box of technological mediation."

I have also co-edited (with Mathias Nilges) an essay collection, entitled Medium and Mediation (2016), for the journal Postmodern Culture, and have new articles on politics and culture in Camera Obscura and Cultural Critique. Last year, I was interviewed on the topic of critical cyberculture for the Digital Culture and Media Initiative.

My new book, entitled Dismantlings: Critical Cyberculture and U.S. Literary Politics in the Long Seventies,
brings radical activist ideas to bear on speculative and experimental literature, and opposes both to the emergence of technocentric and globalist thinking after midcentury. Here as elsewhere, I theorize writers who are rarely considered together, like Ishmael Reed, Shirley Hazzard, Leslie Marmon Silko, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Pynchon, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Ursula K. Le Guin, Alice Mary Hilton, Paddy Chayefsky, Paul Metcalf, Terry Allen, Joanna Russ, Helen and Scott Nearing, Joseph McElroy, Nathaniel Mackey, Shulamith Firestone, Walter Abish, John Mohawk, Philip José Farmer, and Samuel R. Delany.

Up next are two more books: one will consider the modernist roots of the current dynamic between Americanist literary theory and the transnationalist imperative; the other, entitled Obliteratures: Figuration, Opposition, Medium, will theorize what oppositional poetic figures can do in a time of quietism. Developing the theory of medium that I began in my first book, this latter book will ask what effect literary form can really have on the purportedly non-literary world. I consider devices to include: obsequy, an affective stance that can, in Ralph Ellison's terms, "agree them to death and destruction"; obscurity, supposedly an error of expression but in fact a kind of training in epistemological difficulty; obstinacy, mere stubborness; and obliquy, Shakespeare's neologism for a speech act that is both slanderous and slantwise. This book will range even more widely, in texts from Ellison and Shakespeare to Herman Melville and Randolph Bourne, to Vladimir Nabokov and Fran Ross, to Clarence Major and Peter Dimock, to Lydia Davis to Percival Everett; as well as in theoretical formulae from Lauren Berlant and Édouard Glissant, Kostas Axelos and Catherine Malabou.

I have a continuing interest in the convergence and non-convergence of continental philosophy with the activist imagination of the United States, as well as elsewhere in the world. Along these lines, I write and teach on canonical authors, like Walt Whitman, Paul Goodman, John Rechy, Orson Welles, Maya Deren, Kenneth Burke, Stan Brakhage, Richard Wright, and Van Wyck Brooks; as well as contemporary makers including Teju Cole, Jennifer Todd Reeves, Roberto Bolaño, Alison Bechdel, and Kara Walker.

Areas of Specialization

American Literature After 1900
Experimental and political writing, racial figuration, genre studies, film as text, literature and technology, anarchist fiction
Contemporary Literature
Social-movement writing, philosophical fiction, transnational literatures, structural irony, novels about new media
Theory and Cultural Studies
Post-structuralism, form, critical cyberculture, anti-racist and feminist intersections, Americanism as ideology and method
Visual Culture
Media studies, film theory, aesthetics and politics of Hollywood, negativity and visuality, poetics and world cinema