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220 Memorial Hall<div class="ExternalClass41989FAD87644685A24EC87C0E6EA9F0"><p>Sarah Wasserman specializes in American literature from 1900 to today, with an emphasis on post-1945 and contemporary fiction. Her research and teaching interests include material culture studies, literary theory, popular culture, media studies, and digital humanities. Her current book project, <em>The Death of Things: Ephemera in America,</em> examines literary representations of disappearing objects in American culture from the beginning of the twentieth century until today. Professor Wasserman is the co-editor of  <em>Cultures of Obsolescence: History, Materiality, and the Digital Age</em> (2015) and co-curator of the Stanford Arcade Colloquy, <a href="http://arcade.stanford.edu/colloquies/thing-theory-literary-studies">"Thing Theory and Literary Studies."</a> Her essays and reviews have appeared in <em>Contemporary Literature, Modern Fiction Studies, Literature Compass</em>, and <em>The Journal of American Studies</em>. Before joining the department at the University of Delaware, Professor Wasserman taught in Germany at the JFK Institute for North American Studies at the Free University Berlin. She is also the recipient of the Wayne C. Booth Prize for Excellence in Teaching from the University of Chicago.</p></div>swasser@udel.eduWasserman, Sarah<img alt="" src="/Images%20Bios/FAC_Wasserman_Sarah-180.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />Associate Director, Center for Material Culture StudiesWinterthur LiaisonAssistant ProfessorAmerican Literature;Cultural Studies;Digital Humanities;Film and New Media;Print and Material Culture Studies;Race and Ethnicity StudiesM.A. Humanities, University of Chicago; Ph.D. English, Princeton University

 

 

The Death of ThingsWasserman, SarahThe University of Minnesota Press2020https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/the-death-of-things<p>“Nothing ever really disappears from the internet” has become a common warning of the digital age. But the twentieth century was filled with ephemera—items that were designed to disappear forever—and these objects played crucial roles in some of that century’s greatest works of literature. In <em>The Death of Things</em>, author Sarah Wasserman delivers the first comprehensive study addressing the role ephemera played in twentieth-century fiction and its relevance to contemporary digital culture.</p><p>Representing the experience of perpetual change and loss, ephemera was central to great works by major novelists like Don DeLillo, Ralph Ellison, and Marilynne Robinson. Following the lives and deaths of objects, Wasserman imagines new uses of urban space, new forms of visibility for marginalized groups, and new conceptions of the marginal itself. She also inquires into present-day conundrums: our fascination with the durable, our concerns with the digital, and our curiosity about what new fictional narratives have to say about deletion and preservation.</p><em>The Death of Things </em>offers readers fascinating, original angles on how objects shape our world. Creating an alternate literary history of the twentieth century, Wasserman delivers an insightful and idiosyncratic journey through objects that were once vital but are now forgotten.swasser
Cultures of Obsolescence: History, Materiality, and the Digital AgeWasserman, SarahBabette B. TischlederPalgrave MacmillanNew York2015http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/cultures-of-obsolescence-babette-b-tischleder/?K=9781137470898Obsolescence is fundamental to the experience of modernity, not simply one dimension of an economic system. The contributors to this book investigate obsolescence as a historical phenomenon, an aesthetic practice, and an affective mode. Because obsolescence depends upon the supersession and disappearance of what is old and outmoded, this volume sheds light on what usually remains unseen or overlooked. Calling attention to the fact that obsolescence can structure everything from the self to the skyscraper, Cultures of Obsolescence asks readers to rethink existing relationships between the old and the new. Moreover, the essays in this volume argue for the paradoxical ways in which subjects and their concepts of the human, of newness, and of the future are constituted by a relationship to the obsolete.swasser

 

 

Modelwork: The Material Culture of Making and Knowing<p>​<em>Modelwork: The Material Culture of Making and Knowing</em>.  Edited with Martin Brückner and Sandy Isenstadt, Eds. (Forthcoming with the University of Minnesota Press in fall 2021). With entries on Sensing, Knowing, Making, and Doing, this volume makes clear that regardless of time period or physical media, modeling invokes particular registers of phenomenology and epistemology; as a facsimile of a thing or a process, it inevitably creates ways of sensing, knowing, and operating in the world. The volume points toward larger conceptual debates about the way in which models of the past as well as new digital ones—models within models—profoundly shape the world around us. Contributors include Johanna Drucker, Peter Galison, Lisa Gitelman, Annabel Wharton, and several others. </p>Wasserman, SarahswasserJohanna Drucker, Peter Galison, Lisa Gitelman, Annabel Wharton, and several others<img alt="" src="/ResearchProject/Wasserman%20Modelwork.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />
Digital Intimacy: American Love Stories in the Age of the Internet.<p>​This book charts the effects of digitality on ideas of love and how they are represented in contemporary American and Anglophone fiction. The very concepts of love and intimacy appear to be undergoing radical transformations due to the innovations of the digital age: instant and constant communication, matches made by dating site algorithms, social media that seem to simultaneously increase our sense of connectivity and of solitude. Recent narratives—novels by Jennifer Egan, Chang-Rae Lee, Tao Lin, Gary Shteyngart, Sally Rooney, and Zadie Smith, among others—have begun to register these transformations and to ask if the nature of love indeed is changing in response to new technologies. By looking back to earlier texts that also address the imbrication of technology and love, I argue that despite the fast-paced transformations of technology, enduring, analog ideas of love persist in unlikely forms. Simulation becomes stimulation, for example, and fantasy and projection emerge as structures inherent to the love story, even when it transpires online. <em>Digital Romance</em> suggests that we can understand the current climate in which Internet practices seem to be reshaping love by turning to fiction that exposes the long-standing relation between forms of desire and forms of communication.</p>Wasserman, Sarahswasser<img alt="" src="/ResearchProject/Wasserman%20Digital%20Intimacy.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />
Vanishing objects in contemporary American literature<p>​This interdisciplinary book project is the first comprehensive study to address the role that ephemera—objects marked by their imminent disappearance or destruction—play in 20th century fiction. Planned obsolescence, technological change, and the shift from print to digital media have made ephemera ever more meaningful. The disappearing object, so definitive of post-industrial culture, is central in literature seeking to represent the experience of perpetual change and loss. Attention to these objects animates this project, which takes its cue from recent work done under the rubric of “thing theory.” If objects have lives of their own, what happens when they die? From the paper-mâché palaces of World’s Fairs to the abraded edges of postage stamps, disappearing objects intrigue writers like Don DeLillo, Ralph Ellison, Marilynne Robinson, and Philip Roth, elegists of the waning promises of American modernity. In my account, post-45 U.S. fiction responds to the vanishing object-world in ways that are both melancholic and transformative. Bringing material culture studies into dialogue with psychoanalytic theory, this book argues that literary portraits of our vanishing stuff never allow us to let go of or to fully posses our belongings. <br></p>Wasserman, Sarahswasser<img alt="objects vanishing from literature" src="/ResearchProject/RESEARCH_Wasserman-death-of-things-455.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />

 

 

William Riley Parker Award<p>​<strong>Sarah Wasserman,</strong> assistant professor, has been awarded the William Riley Parker Prize, by the Modern Language Association of America (MLA), for her article published in their May 2020 issue of <em>PMLA</em>. The committee’s citation reads: 'Sarah Wasserman’s “Ralph Ellison, Chester Himes, and the Persistence of Urban Forms” is a beautifully written essay on the political and temporal paradoxes of what we now call gentrification. Wasserman provides a compelling account of the formal strategies that Ellison and Himes developed to show “how infrastructure registers urban change, congealing past and present” and thereby disrupting simple notions of loss, preservation, and progress. Instead of seeing Ellison and Himes as writing in antithetical genres, aesthetic registers, and fictional forms—pulp detective story versus psychologically realistic novel—we can understand them both as using “the conventions of the novel as a backdrop against which they plot formal changes and social transformations that remain incomplete.” Wasserman demonstrates that by examining treatments of objects and urban spaces, rather than explorations of human psychology, we can reevaluate the taxonomies we use to value and understand literature and the political histories it mediates.'</p>Wasserman, Sarahswasser

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University of Delaware
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  • Department of English
  • 203 Memorial Hall
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • University of Delaware
  • Phone: 302-831-2361
  • english@udel.edu