My primary research investigates the prevalence of what I call testimonial fiction in contemporary American culture. By testimonial fiction, I mean those texts that testify to true stories through fictional characters that both resemble the author and share his/her name, with "fiction" defined not as prose necessarily but as any cultural production that alters--through addition or subtraction--the factual elements of a story. My book project focuses on Anne Sexton's poetry, Spike Jonze's Adaptation, Philip Roth's Deception and Operation: Shylock, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated, and Philip K. Dick's Radio Free Albemuth. I conclude that due largely to genre expectations, testimonial fiction allows witnesses the freedom they need in order to not only tell their stories but also the difficulties that come with responding to the gaps, silences, and distortions that are evidence of trauma. I also argue that what makes the genre of testimonial fiction especially significant for our understanding of testimony is that it testifies to the futurity of testimony, a genre we often consider to be primarily concerned with the past. I illustrate this always-looking-forward in a discussion of Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin and Prater Violet.
My publications include a version of the chapter on Radio Free Albemuth, which appeared in Extrapolation. In this article, I argue that we can best understand testimony in the vein of Jean Baudrillard's third-order simulation. Because an original traumatic event is, by definition, never fully experienced and remembered as it occurred, testimonies speak to a simulation of that event. Furthermore, because communicating always imposes its own limitations and alterations on top of these memory alterations, a testimony can only hope to simulate the simulation. Because Baudrillard illustrates his argument with places and beliefs that figure prominently in Radio Free Albemuth--Disneyland, Christianity, and prisons, the novel proves to be an exemplary text for engaging with the hyperreal. I further investigate the novel and concept through Hiroki Azuma's Otaku, wherein he argues that Japan's otaku culture resulted from Japan jumping over modernism directly to postmodernism. I conclude then that the simulation found in testimony, religious faith, and American ideals is to be mourned only if we insist on evaluating them from the perspective of modernism. Rather, when we discover that faith and hyperreality are necessary for something we cherish to exist, we should view simulation as an opportunity to invent better versions of testimony, faith, and American values.
My presentations range from participation at regional MLA conferences, on-campus faculty forums, and international conferences. For more information, please see my CV.