David J. Alworth joined the Department of English and the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature in July 2012, after completing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Chicago, where he specialized in twentieth-century American cultural and intellectual history, media studies, and social theory. His current book project, “Site Reading: Postwar Fiction, Visual Art, and Social Form,” examines five sites—supermarkets, dumps, roads, ruins, and asylums—that were crucial to the development of post–WWII American literature and visual art, arguing that writers and artists turn to real, material sites as a means of reimagining social form. For writers such as Don DeLillo, William S. Burroughs, Joan Didion, and Thomas Pynchon, and for artists such as Andy Warhol, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, John Chamberlain, and Richard Ross, Alworth demonstrates, the social is not an exclusively human domain, but a complex zone of interaction between humans and nonhumans, from Brillo boxes and trashcans to cars and bombs. A portion of this project appears as “Supermarket Sociology” in New Literary History, and a related essay, entitled “Pynchon’s Malta,” is forthcoming in Post45: Peer Reviewed.
Alworth’s scholarship has been supported by numerous fellowships and awards, including a Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council and a Mellon Foundation/University of Chicago Dissertation Fellowship. During the 2011–2012 academic year, he was an Affiliated Fellow at the Franke Institute for the Humanities. He has presented scholarship at national and international conferences, including the Modern Language Association Annual Convention and the Modernist Studies Association Conference, and in 2013, pending approval, he will convene a three-day seminar on “New Sociologies of Literature” at the American Comparative Literature Association Conference. This year at Harvard, he will teach “American Modernism,” “The Postwar American Road Narrative,” and “American Detective Fiction,” while laying the groundwork for a new book-length study, tentatively titled “The Scene of the Crime,” that will examine the figuration of physical space in detective fiction, from Poe to Pynchon.