John Plotz

John PlotzBarbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities
Director of Graduate Studies
Co-Founder, Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative
(education in the criminal justice system)
PhD, Harvard University
Editor, "B-Sides" (Public Books)
Faber Fellow in Humanities, Princeton University, Fall 2022
Co-Host, Recall This Book podcast (episodes on minimalism, new media, addiction, Circe , 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, 2018-19
  • 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.

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