Appointed As

Public Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

PhD Field of Study

PhD, English, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dissertation Abstract

"Imagining Pleasure: Experimentalism and Race in Twentieth-Century American Literature and Visual Culture"

Imagining Pleasure argues that aesthetic pleasure is fundamental to the circulation of racial meaning in twentieth-century literature and visual culture in the U.S. Focusing on literature, film, and visual art produced by women and queer people of color, Imagining Pleasure examines the ways in which formal experimentation expands the repertoire of feelings associated with race. It argues that aesthetic pleasure is a crucial to antiracist politics, enabling survival in periods defined by crisis and threat, facilitating coalition and solidarity across difference, and empowering subjects to imagine just social formations. This interdisciplinary dissertation draws from work in critical race studies, affect theory, and queer theory, including work by Saidiya Hartman, José Esteban Muñoz, Sianne Ngai, and Audre Lorde. Examining a diverse selection of literary and visual texts, from Nella Larsen’s Passing to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée to Glenn Ligon’s text paintings, Imagining Pleasure highlight the intimacy of affect and form at the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality. It asks: how does art create coalition if not through recognition and catharsis? How do we distinguish between the shared feeling that ruptures oppression and heals trauma and feelings that reproduce trauma and uphold oppression? What are the material effects of an aesthetic pleasure which is not the slippery interpersonal projections of identification or the rehearsal of familiar narratives of psychic resolution? Thus, this project challenges conventional assumptions regarding the relationship between pleasure, form, racial meaning, and social change. Imagining Pleasure: Experimentalism and Race in Twentieth-Century American Literature and Visual Culture contends that experimentalist aesthetics articulate the limits and possibilities of pleasure for social and political life. This dissertation imagines that aesthetic pleasure may be more than fetish, escape, or political instrument, but a political end that enables antiracist feeling.