James Lilley

Associate Professor

Ph.D., Princeton 

18th- and 19th-century American and British Literature, Political Theory, Literature and Philosophy

Humanities 351
(518) 442-4093


Professor Lilley joined the faculty in 2007 after receiving his Ph.D. in English from Princeton and his B.A. (Hons.) in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Stanford.  His most recent book, Common Things: Romance and the Aesthetics of Belonging in Atlantic Modernity (published in 2014 in Fordham UP's "Commonalities" series), examines aesthetic transformations that, during the 18th and 19th century, made community conceivable in terms of a series of peculiar and interrelated common things: genre, feeling, event, property, personhood, and race. (An outline of his book can be viewed here.)  In his next book, Impersonal Movements: On Literature and Gesture, he reads several different expressive modes in terms of their mutually gestural poetics.  If, as Giorgio Agamben has argued, gesture is that "which in each expression remains without expression," then Professor Lilley turns to Edwards, Poe and Melville in order to explore how voice, movement, habit, and script can function as vitally eccentric gestures of literary expression.  At SUNY Albany, he teaches courses in American and British literature and culture, as well as offering more specialized graduate classes that explore the intersections of aesthetics and intellectual history.

Selected Books and Articles

Common Things: Romance and the Aesthetics of Belonging in Atlantic Modernity (Fordham UP 2014).

"Studies in Uniquity: Horace Walpole's Singular Collection."  ELH 80.1 (Spring 2013).

"Being Singularly Impersonal: Jonathan Edwards and the Aesthetics of Apocalypse.”  American Impersonal: Essays With Sharon Cameron.  Ed. Branka Arsić (Continuum 2015)

“Henry Mackenzie’s Ruined Feelings: Romance, Race, and the Afterlife of Sentimental Exchange." New Literary History 38.4 (Winter 2007).

Cormac McCarthy: New Directions. Editor and Introduction. (U of New Mexico Press, 2002).

“‘What it Means to Say Mexicano’: Patrolling the Borders of Mario Suárez’s Fiction.” Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (MELUS) 26.2 (2001).

“Of Whales and Men: The Dynamics of Cormac McCarthy’s Environmental Vision.” Southern Quarterly 38.2 (2000): 111-22. Rpt. in The Greening of Literary Scholarship. Ed. Steven Rosendale (Iowa UP, 2002).

“An Interview with Barry Hannah.” Mississippi Review 25.3 (1997).

Recent Courses

SUNY Albany

ENG 581: Romance and Ruin

ENG 310: Monsters and Modernity

ENG 371/COM 373: Contemporary Literary Theory (With Eduardo Cadava)
ENG 327: Jane Austen in Context (With Claudia L. Johnson)

Selected Conference Papers

"What Sleeping Rocks Dream Of: Jonathan Edwards and the Immanence of American Allegory" MLA Conference. Austin, TX. January 2016

"Fateful Gestures: On Movement and the Maneuvers of Style in “Benito Cereno” Americanist Colloquium. Columbia University. December 1, 2015

“Logics of Inclination and Habit in the Philosophical Aesthetics of Jonathan Edwards.” NEASECS Conference. Syracuse, NY (2014)

“The Thermodynamics of Poe’s Pym.” Affinities Conference. Albany, NY (2014).

"Buoyant Gestures: The Impersonal Community of Poe's Pym." C19 Conference. Chapel Hill, NC (2014).

“No Thing in Common: Allegory and the Aesthetics of Belonging in Early American Gothic Literature.” Society of Early Americanists Conference.  Philadelphia, PA (2011)

“Revisiting Irving’s Aesthetics of Dispossession: Sovereignty, Indian Removal, and A Tour on the Prairies.”  C19 Conference.  State College, PA (2010)

“Epistemologies of Ruin; Or, why Ossian was Jefferson’s Favorite Poet.” Group for Early Modern Cultural Studies Conference.  Dallas, TX (2009).

“‘The Live Wreck of a Prodigious Empire’: Romance, Indian Removal, and the Grimace of Ruined History.”  Society of Early Americanists Conference.  Hamilton, Bermuda (2009).

“‘Seeing With Saxon Eyes’: Horace Walpole and the Antiquarian Aesthetics of Race.”  Modern Languages Association.  San Francisco, CA (2008).

‘Tenderness Unutterable’: Julia de Roubigné and the Dialectics of Sentimental Servitude.” American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Montréal (2006).

“Everyday Gothic.” Co-authored with Professor Jennifer Greeson. Friends of Strawberry Hill Conference on the Gothic, Eton College, Eton, England (2005).

“‘A Gothic Vatican of Greece and Rome’: Strawberry Hill’s Authentic Fakery.” American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Las Vegas, NV (2005).

“The Taste of the Nation: Transatlantic Aesthetics and the New York Mercantile Library.” Society of Early Americanists Conference, Providence, RI (2003).

“‘The Discipline of the Halter’: Washington Irving, Indian Removal, and the Landscapes of Colonial Violence.” Modern Language Association, Washington, D.C. (2000).