John Plotz

John PlotzBarbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities
Co-Founder, Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative
(education in the criminal justice system)
PhD, Harvard University
Editor, "B-Sides" (Public Books)

Co-Host, Recall This Book  podcast (episodes on minimalism, new mediaaddictionCirce, etc.)

Meet Professor Plotz through OpenBook: An English Department Podcast.

Research Interests

Victorian literature, the novel, science fiction and fantasy.


  • Eberhard L. Faber Visiting Fellow in the Humanities Council and Department of English at Princeton University, 2022-23
  • Nahum Glatzer Teaching Scholar Award, 2021-22
  • Fellowship, Newhouse Center for the Humanities, 2018—2019
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, 2011-12

  • Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, 2011-12

  • Brandeis University Dean of Arts and Sciences Mentoring Award, 2006-07

  • Howard Foundation Fellowship for 2005-06

Selected Publications

BooksUrsula LeGuin's Earthsea cover

Books and Articles (for a General Readership)

Academic Talks Available Online

Refereed Articles and Book Chapters

  • "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.

  • "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).
  • "No Future? The Novel's Pasts." Novel 44:1 (2011), 23-6.

  • "The Semi-Detached Provincial Novel." Victorian Studies, 53:3 (2011), 405-16.

  • "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 (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 (2000), 87-114.

  • "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 (1996), 369-386.

  • "Coriolanus and the Failure of Performatives." ELH 63:4 (1996), 709-732.

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

Current Projects

  • “Nonhuman Being: Post-Darwinian Naturalism, Fantasy, and Science Fiction” attempts to trace the legacy of Darwinian natural materialism in the near-simultaneous emergence of prose fantasy, science fiction and Naturalist literature. In the late 19th century, evolutionary theory and the emergent “epistemic virtue” of objectivity shape not only the deterministic logic of Naturalism, but also the otherworldly permutations of fantasy and science fiction, which register a scalar shift in humanity’s relationship to a more expansive space and time—and to human interior accessible in a range of new ways. All three genres explore the nonhuman within human existence, making them bellwethers of changing human relations to the object as well as the animal world. A vernacular thing theory unfolded in the decades after Darwin—and in many ways persists into the present-day, subtly shaping various forms of “posthumanism” and “object-oriented ontology.” Studying the rise of fantasy, science fiction and naturalism together--a novel approach, building on excellent recent scholarship about each separate genre—clarifies not only that thing theory’s origins but also its contemporary afterlife.

Selected Courses Taught