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I am a PhD candidate in Berkeley’s department of comparative literature, where I study Victorian and modernist novels, film, and critical theory. My dissertation, Idle Attentions: Modern Fiction and the Dismissal of Distraction, challenges a long critical tradition that casts distraction as the default state of the modern subject. I focus on a series of English-language novels beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and stretching through the early twentieth, including Dickens’s Bleak House, Stoker’s Dracula, Conrad’s Nostromo, and Joyce’s Ulysses. By bringing original analyses of the history of science and political theory to bear on these quintessentially “distracted” texts, I demonstrate that their unfocused form constitutes itself in opposition to an increasingly ubiquitous demand for productive attention. In these novels, I reveal, distraction appears not as the surging current of modern life, but as an increasingly stigmatized and quickly vanishing cognitive mode. I have also recently published or presented work on Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 and La literatura nazi en América and on the persistence of allegory in modernist cinema.
At Berkeley, I have designed and taught a variety of courses including “Home and Away,” which reconsidered idealized popular portrayals of the family home through readings of queer and Gothic texts; “Fan Fictions,” which examined canonical works of literary imitation alongside the contemporary popular phenomenon of fan fiction; and “The American Myth of Los Angeles,” which introduced core concepts of critical race theory by analyzing cultural representations of Los Angeles. This semester I am teaching Comparative Literature’s cinema survey course, “The Cinematic Machine,” which explores cinema’s relationship to technology and industry, beginning in the silent era and working towards the present day. I have also taught Spanish 101 and 102 at San Quentin State Prison through the Prison University Project.