Contact Information

Rabb 264
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See Professor Plotz's Faculty Guide page for more information.


John Plotz

Semi-Detached (2017) Plotz

Department Chair
Ph.D., Harvard University

Editor, B-Sides (Public Books)

Research Interests

Victorian literature, the novel, politics and aesthetics.


Guggenheim Fellowship, 2011-12
Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, 2011-12
Brandeis University Dean of Arts and Sciences Mentoring Award,
Howard Foundation Fellowship for 2005-06

Selected Publications


Semi-Detached: The Aesthetics of Virtual Experience since Dickens. Princeton University Press, 2017.

Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the MovePrinceton University Press, 2008.

The Crowd: British Literature and Public Politics: Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Books and Articles (for a General Readership)

Time and the Tapestry: A William Morris Adventure. Illustrated by Phyllis Sarofff. Children’s Book.  (Bunker Hill Publishing, June, 2014).  Reviews in Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Publishers Weekly, etc. 

“John Williams’s Perfect Anti-Western.” Public Books  (May 1, 2016).

Nixon’s Nemesis: Ursula Le Guin’s Anarchist Aesthetics.”  Public Books (October 15, 2015).

“The Story’s Where I Go: An Interview with Ursula Le Guin.” Public Books (June 15, 2015).

“Necessary Pleasures: How I Learned to Write, and Why.” Writing for the Curious: Why Study Writing. Ed. Kishor Vaidya. (Curious Academic Publishing, 2015).

“Jean Stafford, Antisocialite.”  Public Books (January 6, 2014).

Zounds, Milady: At the Renaissance Faire.” Slate (February 2, 2013). 

“Feeling like a Stoic: Doris Lessing’s Experimental Fiction.” Public Books  (August 7, 2012).

Ray Bradbury’s Death.” Slate. June 6, 2012.

What Do Where the Wild Things Are and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address Have in Common?” Slate. May 8, 2012.

Their Noonday Demons, and Ours.” The New York Times Book Review. Back-page Essay. December 25, 2011. 

“This Book is 119 Years Overdue.” Slate. November 17, 2011.

Brandeis Special Collections Spotlight, The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye and the Kelmscott Press, November 2010

Academic Talks Available Online

Emotional Intelligence, Darwin-style: on the Victorian origins of the idea of the Anthropocene.” Plenary Talk. “Affective Habitus.” Canberra, June 2014.


Refereed Articles and Book Chapters

“Overtones and Empty Rooms: Willa Cather’s Semi-Detached Modernism.”  Novel 50:1 (2017), 56-76.

“Partial to Opera: Sounding Willa Cather’s Empty Rooms” in Sounding Modernism: Rhythm and Sonic Mediation in Modern Literature and Film. Edited by Julian Murphet, Helen Groth and Penelope Hone (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming, 2017).

“Speculative Naturalism and the Problem of Scale: Richard Jefferies’s After London, After Darwin.” MLQ  76.1 (2015), 31-56.

The Victorian Anthropocene: George Marsh and the Tangled Bank of Darwinian Environmentalism.” Australasian Journal of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology (vol. 4, 2014), 52-64.

Serial Pleasures: The Influence of Television on the Victorian Novel.” RAVoN  63; Special Issue, “Television for Victorianists” (2014).

“Victorian Short Stories.” Chapter 7, Cambridge Companion to the English Short Story. Edited Ann-Marie Einhaus. (Cambridge University Press: forthcoming, 2016).

Materiality in Theory: What to Make of Victorian Things, Objects, and Commodities.” In The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Literary Culture. Edited by Juliet John (2016).

“The Provincial Novel.” A Companion to the English Novel, ed. Stephen Arata, J. Paul Hunter, Jennifer Wicke (Blackwell: 2015), 360-372.

“Henry James’s Rat-tat-tat-ah: Insidious Loss, Disguised Recovery and Semi-Detached Subjects.”  Henry James Review 34 (2013): 232-244.

“Two Flowers: George Eliot’s Diagrams and the Modern Novel.” A Companion to George Eliot. Ed. Amanda Anderson and Harry Shaw (Blackwell, 2013) 76-90.

"'On the Spot': Willa Cather's Remarkable Quotation Marks."  Willa Cather Newsletter and Review. 56:2 (Spring 2013), 20-21.

“No Future? The Novel’s Pasts.” Novel 44:1 (Summer, 2011), 23-6.

“The Semi-Detached Provincial Novel.” Victorian Studies, 53:3 (Fall 2011), 405-16.

“The Short Fiction of James Hogg.” 113-121 in The Edinburgh Companion to James Hogg. Edited Douglas Mack and Ian Duncan. Edinburgh University Press, 2012.

 “Reading as a Resonant Cavity: John Stuart Mill’s Mediated Involvement” 69-92 in 
The Feeling of Reading. Ed. Rachel Ablow. U. Michigan Press, 2010.

“The Whole Hogg.” Review Essay. Collected Works of James Hogg. Novel 43:2 (2010), 120-5.

“Antisocial Fictions: Mill and the Novel.”  Novel 43:1 (2010) 38-46.

"The First Strawberries in India: Cultural Portability in Victorian Greater Britain."  Victorian Studies, Summer 2007, Vol. 49 Issue 4, p 659-684.

"Discreet Jewels: Victorian Diamond Narratives and the Problem of Sentimental Value." In The Secret Life of Things: Animals, Objects, And It-narratives in Eighteenth-Century England. Edited by Mark Blackwell. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2007, 329-354.

"Nowhere and Everywhere: The End of Portability in William Morris's Romances." ELH 74:2 (2007), 931- 956.

"The Return of the Blob: Or How Sociology Decided to Stop Worrying and Love the Crowd." 203-224 in Crowds, edited by Jeffrey T. Schnapp and Matthew Tiews (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006).

"Chartist Literature." In Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. Ed. David Kastan. Oxford University Press, 2006, I, 440-444.

"Can the Sofa Speak? A Look at Thing Theory." Criticism (Winter 2005) 47:1, 109-118

"One-Way Traffic: George Lamming and the Portable Empire." In After the Imperial Turn. Edited by Antoinette Burton (Duke University Press, 2003).

"Virtually Being There: Edmund Wilson's Suburbs." Southwest Review 87:1 (2002), 10-28. (winner, 2002 McGinnis-Ritchie Award for Nonfiction in Southwest Review)

"Crowd Power: Chartism, Carlyle and the Victorian Public Sphere." Representations 70 (Spring 2000), 87-114. link to text

"Out of Circulation: For and Against Book Collecting." Southwest Review 84:4 (Fall, 1999), 462-478. (named "Notable Essay," Best American Essays, 2000).

"Objects of Abjection: The Systematic and the Anti-Systematic in the Novels of Jean Genet." Twentieth Century Literature 44:1 (Spring 1998), 100-118.

"Motion Slickness: Spectacle and Circulation in Thomas Hardy's 'On the Western Circuit." Studies in Short Fiction. 33:4 (Winter, 1996), 369-386.

"Coriolanus and the Failure of Performatives." ELH 63:4 (Winter, 1996), 709-732. link to text.

Edited Collection

Pairing Empires: A Special Issue of the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 2:1 (Spring, 2001). Selected papers from the “Pairing Empires” conference. Guest-Edited and with an introduction, “Pairing Empires,” by Paul Kramer and John Plotz.

Selected Reviews

Slow Print: Literary Radicalism and Late Victorian Print Culture. Elizabeth Carolyn Miller.  Gandhi’s Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading. Isabel Hofmeyr. Nineteenth Century Literature 68:2 (Sept. 2013), 270-77.

Guru English, Srinivas Aravamudan. Modern Philology, 104:2 (November 2006), 285-290.

Practicing New Historicism. Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt. MLQ 62:3 (Fall, 2001), 285-290.

"Victorian Relativity by Christopher Herbert: A Review Essay." Novel 36:1 (2002) 111-118.

Current Projects

His current project, Semi-DetachedAesthetic Experience from Dickens to Keaton (forthcoming in Fall, 2017 from Princeton University Press)  asks:  When you’ve half lost yourself in a book, what happens to the half left behind? Artworks are like virtual worlds, which allow their audiences to feel that they are simultaneously  inside and outside an artwork: both in  an art gallery looking at a painting, and somehow within the world that painting depicts. This is not complete immersion, like a gloves-and mask kind of virtual reality, but a kind of semi-detachment, which is compelling to its audiences because it never lets them forget their real-world location. The artists and writers he studies include George Eliot, John Stuart Mill, Henry James, Laurence Alma-Tadema, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Robert Browning, and William Morris.

Selected Courses Taught

The Modern Novel: Public, Private, and Social (ENG 218b)
Representation, Embodiment, and Portability in Victorian Literature (ENG 215a)
19th-Century Novel (ENG 105b)
19th-Century Survey (ENG 5a)
Provincialism & Imperialism (ENG 155a)
British and Irish Fiction (ENG 57a)
The Political Novel (ENG 68a)
Birth of the Short Story (ENG 40b)

Click here to see some of the incredible work produced by undergraduate students in Birth of the Short Story!