I am completing a book project, entitled Thin Skin: Autotheory and Resilience, that connects experimental life-writing aesthetics to crises of subjectivity, such as postwar and violent trauma, terminal illness, aging and memory loss, and encounters with targeted, structural, and institutionalized forms of violence. These crises are at once extraordinary, life altering, and specific and altogether ordinary in the sense that they define, rather than disrupt a common psychic experience of precariousness. In Thin Skin, I argue that experimental life-writing techniques attend to a pressing need for theoretical writing that more transparently acknowledges the lived experiences of its producers and renders the personal explicitly political. In particular, hybrid critical-creative prose methodologies transform the vulnerability and exposure of their authors into workable, accessible theory, thereby fulfilling an important cultural demand for philosophy that gets “closer to the skin,” as Sara Ahmed puts it, in order to work on the world. My project thus traces a long history of what is often thought to be an emergent genre, autotheory, in order to demonstrate life writing’s contributions to the resilience of marginalized individuals and communities as well as the resilience of the form over time.
My second book project, Green Subjects: Dissident Botanies in Contemporary Fiction, surveys the literary history of human-plant metamorphoses from Ovid to H.D., then follows this history with close readings of four contemporary works of fiction and one work of nonfiction that innovate variations on this trope. I contend that where such transformations in the fiction of previous eras often sought to convey certain ethics regarding human-to-human relations through metaphors of inhumanity, the literature of the present is focused on decentering the human perspective and fostering consort between human and nonhuman beings and ways of being. The aim in each case study is to establish the political or civic value of reinvigorating such transformations in the stories taking shape around global climate change and ecological collapse.