Ian Davis

Ian joined the department in 2013. His teaching and writing is about stateside literature and cultures from the 19th to the 21st century, particularly transnational modernisms; race, gender, sexuality, and capital through phenomenological and deconstructive approaches to affect; mass incarceration; and educational practices and institutions.

His dissertation, The Breakup Novel, describes a couple of the narrative forms taken by the breakup, thought as a genre of intimate experience in which, as it develops over the course of the 20th century, cluster racially gendered anxieties about what makes for unsustainable stateside sociality. The breakup––with its grab bag of raw, wild affects and its disintegrations of narratives of social self––can signal the breakdowns of fantasies about intimacy as the small-scale socioeconomic system in which interests can be harmonized, exploitations and inequities can be healthily managed, and real-deal reciprocity feels possible. The diss focuses on three intimate feelings in novels about variously-white Americans breaking up in Paris: social pleasure in Henry James’s The Ambassadors, anxiety in Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood, and contempt in James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. Drawing on the work of critics like Sianne Ngai, Fred Moten, Hortense Spillers, and Lauren Berlant, it tries to deconstruct those novels’ representations of whiteness being forced to feel autocritical affects and explicitly question its violent social incapacities and repressive regimens. The Breakup Novel thus tries to think again the ways affects, their psychic forms and circuits, are supposed to shape racially gendered sensoria and sociality, their insistent failures, fragilities, viciousness, and violently incommensurate aspirational routines, within and after the ruptures of love.

Ian’s been teaching composition and literary critical courses with the Prison Teaching Initiative since 2014. He’s precepted for Princeton classes on things like reading fiction; gender and sexuality studies; and american cinema. He spent the 2016-17 academic year as a University Administrative Fellow, serving as PTI’s Humanities Personnel Coordinator; and he is PTI’s Graduate Tutoring Coordinator for the 2018-19 academic year. He also works for the digital humanities Shakespeare and Company Lending Library Project and has co-directed the 20th-Century Colloquium.