I am an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in English at Idaho State University. My research and teaching focus on twentieth-century literature and culture, with emphases in modernism, theories of the novel, genre fiction, popular print culture, and comics studies. Generally, I am interested in the connections between experimental and popular literary forms, and in how authors combine the two to achieve particular effects.

My first book, Violent Minds: Modernism and the Criminal (Cambridge University Press, 2019), constructs a genealogy of criminality in modernist fiction from the late nineteenth century to the 1950s. Examining a range of modernist authors who explored new modes of psychological representation through the figure of the criminal, and who drew upon works of detective fiction in order to develop those representations, Violent Minds demonstrates how a fascination with criminality underlies several modernist engagements with subjectivity, genre fiction, and experimental narrative.

I’ve recently begun work on two new projects. The first, on modernism and seriality, is tentatively titled Time and Again: Modernism and the Form of the Series. This book aims to show how and why serial forms have played an underappreciated yet pivotal role in shaping modernist aesthetics, and how experimentation with such forms of seriality allowed writers, cartoonists, and filmmakers to manipulate their audiences’ experience of narrative time, characterization, and plot. In this project, I make the case for the serial work of art, too often dismissed as a purely commercial endeavor, as uniquely suited to developing the experimental imperatives of modernism within a media ecology saturated with serial forms.

My second book in progress is tentatively titled The New Old Style: Anachronism in Contemporary Comics (under advance contract with the University of Nebraska Press, “Encapsulations: Critical Comics Studies” series). In this project, I ask why contemporary cartoonists adopt the visual registers of the early twentieth century, producing work meant to appear much older than it actually is. This practice, which I term the “anachronistic aesthetic,” represents a significant form of experimentation in the comics medium by demonstrating the potential for critique inherent in the art object deliberately out of sync with the moment of its production.

These and other projects speak to my interests in popular forms–especially crime fiction, comics, and mass-market periodicals–that explicitly or implicitly blur the lines between convention and experiment, and in how those works complicate our understanding of cultural capital, aesthetic value, and generic definition. Articles on the early history of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and the relationship between criminology and crime fiction have appeared in edited collections, and I recently edited a special issue of the Journal of Modern Periodical Studies on “Seriality,” where I contributed an essay on Dick Tracy and the narrative temporality of daily newspaper comics. I am currently editing or co-editing special issues for two other journals–one on “Modernism in Comics” (for Modernism/modernity Print Plus) and one on “Comics in Twenty-First-Century American Life” (for the New Americanist)–and developing essays on Patricia Highsmith and genre and the representation of psychoanalysis in EC Comics. I also have broader interests in editing for academic journals; with Elizabeth Sheehan, I am the Co-Editor of the Journal of Modern Periodical Studies, and I serve on the Advisory Committee for PMLA.

I received my PhD in English at the University of Washington, and earned a BA in English at Vanderbilt University. Before coming to Idaho State, I taught for five years in the College Writing Program at Harvard University, and I still serve as a faculty member of the Harvard Summer School. In Spring 2022, I was in residence in Poland as the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Humanities and Social Sciences at the American Studies Center, University of Warsaw.

Contact: matthewlevay_at_isu_dot_edu