James Lilley

James Lilley

Associate Professor
Department of English


Humanities 333

PhD, Princeton University

James Lilley

Professor Lilley joined the UAlbany faculty in 2007 after receiving his PhD in English from Princeton and his BA (Hons.) in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Stanford. His earlier work is rooted in the American Southwest and borderlands regions and explores the legacy of racism, colonialism, and environmental destruction in the contours of contemporary writers such as Cormac McCarthy and Mario Suarez. His edited collection of essays, Cormac McCarthy: New Directions (U of New Mexico Press, rpt. 2014) remains a vital reference point in McCarthy studies, and his own work in that field has been published in a number of journals and anthologies.

More recently, the focus of Professor Lilley’s work has shifted from the borderlands to the transatlantic. Common Things: Romance and the Aesthetics of Belonging in Atlantic Modernity (published in Fordham UP's "Commonalities" series in political theory), examines the work of writers on both sides of the Atlantic whose work helped to establish the sentimental and gothic romance traditions (Walpole, Mackenzie, Irving, Brockden Brown, Fenimore Cooper, and Poe.) Considered one of the most important new works in transatlantic studies in a recent review in American Literary History, Common Things* examines key 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.

For his current book project, Impersonal Movements: On Literature and Gesture Professor Lilley returns to American soil and 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 vital gestures of literary expression. Sections of the chapters on Edwards and Melville have recently been excerpted in important new anthologies of American literary criticism (see below for publication details), and part of the chapter on Poe’s enigmatic The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is forthcoming in Arizona Quarterly.

At University at Albany, Professor Lilley is Director of Graduate Studies, where 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

University at 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)