Lee Konstantinou

It's a great honor to have been invited to blog here at Arcade.

For my first posting, let me introduce myself.

My name is Lee Konstantinou.  I recently received my Ph.D. from the English department at Stanford, and I'm currently a postdoctoral fellow with Stanford's Program in Writing and Rhetoric. 

My academic work is largely focused on postwar American fiction, but I'm interested more generally in media studies, the graphic novel (a.k.a. comics), science fiction and fantasy, modernism and postmodernism, and U.S. political and economic history.

In August, I filed a dissertation called "Wipe That Smirk off Your Face: Postironic Literature and the Politics of Character," which discussed the transition from postmodernism as a mode to what I call "postirony," a kind of cultural production that has become increasingly visible and dominant over the last two decades (one thinks immediately of David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers and the other McSweeney's-ites, Zadie Smith, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Junot Díaz, Wes Anderson, Charlie Kaufman, This American Life, Chris Ware, etc.).  Though my dissertation primarily examines the fiction of recent writers, including Wallace, Eggers, and Smith, I also look back at Thomas Pynchon and Ralph Ellison, and consider the rise of what gets called "postmodern irony" in the context of cultural debates that originated during the cold war.

The book version of my project -- which is tentatively called Countercultural Capital: The Problem of Irony in Postwar American Literature -- will expand the scope of my investigation to consider more broadly the politics of irony in postwar literary life in the U.S.  I will be adding a new chapter on the history and politics of punk -- and its relationship to the rise of cultural studies as a research program -- focusing on the ironic aesthetic practices of William Burroughs, Kathy Acker, and Dennis Cooper.

I am also a published novelist.  My first novel, a political satire called Pop Apocalypse, came out last year, and I'm working on a second novel.  I find that the concerns of my academic writing intersect with the fiction I'm excited about producing, though I have to admit that I use different parts of my brain when I'm writing fiction and when I'm writing academic prose.  (I have MRI records to prove this!)

I think that academic folk shouldn't be shy about using digital media; we should publish early and often -- to modify a phrase from the world of open-source software development -- and I think we should direct what we write not only toward specialist audiences but also toward a broader interested public, at least in our digital incarnations.

This is what I take to be my mission here as an Arcade blogger:  to translate my often narrow and specialized research interests into posts accessible and significant to a broader audience interested in the questions only the humanities, I would argue, have a vocabulary to consider adequately.  So let's get started.