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Jason Berger

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Associate Professor

Jason Berger teaches courses in nineteenth-century American literature and critical theory. He is the author of Antebellum at Sea: Maritime Fantasies in Nineteenth-Century America (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2012), which was nominated for the MLA Fist Book Prize and explores the roles that maritime narratives played in negotiating contradictions within the developing global market system. He is currently working on two monograph projects. The first, Xenocitizens: Illiberal Ontologies in Nineteenth-Century America (under contract, Fordham UP), offers a new approach toward antebellum political personhood that challenges a longstanding scholarly tradition based upon liberal-humanist perspectives. The book contributes to emerging theories in fields such as new materialism and environmental humanities by examining how crises in the antebellum years pushed writers associated with the abolitionist movement to formulate alternative models for thinking about political ontologies and ecological conditions. His more recent project, tentatively titled Whale Undone: Melville, Olson, and Ecologies of Actuality, considers how earlier writers (Melville in the 1840s/1850s and Charles Olson in the 1940s/1950s) conceived of the Anthropocene’s vast material coordinates and effects. By focusing on Melville’s fascination with whales’ bodies within the whaling industry and Olson’s materialist formulations of Gloucester’s maritime economy, the book reveals alternate material, formal, and temporal realities that unsettle common presentations of ecology and modernity.

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  • Ph.D., University of Connecticut
  • M.A., University of Vermont
  • B.S., Central Connecticut State University

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Research Interests

Nineteenth-Century American Literature, Critical Theory (Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Posthumanism, Queer Theory, New Materialism), Environmental Humanities

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  • Antebellum at Sea: Maritime Fantasies in Nineteenth-Century America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (2012).
  • Xenocitizens: Illiberal Ontologies in Nineteenth-Century America (Under Contract, Fordham University Press).
  • Whale Undone: Melville, Olson, and Ecologies of Actuality (In progress).

Selected Articles & Chapters

  • “Roberto Bolaño’s Moby-Dick: Unflattening Formalism” (forthcoming in Cultural Critique; 31 pages).
  • “Emerson’s Operative Mood: Religious Sentiment and Violence in the Early Works.” Studies in Romanticism 54 (Winter 2015): 477-502.
  • “Travel.” Ralph Waldo Emerson in Context. Ed. Wesley T. Mott. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 49-56.
  • “The Political Fantastic: Žižek, Fantasy, and a New Autonomous Aesthetics.” The Minnesota Review 79 (October 2012): 53-77.
  • “Antebellum Fantasies of the Common Sailor; or, Enjoying the Knowing Jack Tar.” Criticism 51.1 (Winter 2009): 29-61.
  • “Killing Tom Coffin: Rethinking the Nationalist Narrative in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pilot.” Early American Literature 43.3 (November 2008): 643-671.
  • “Refiguring O’Neill’s Early Sea Plays: Maritime Labor Enters the Age of Modernity.” The Eugene O’Neill Review 28 (May 2006): 13-31.

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