Mary Naydan is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of English. Her research and teaching interests focus on British and American modern literature, poetry and historical poetics, and genre studies. She received her B.A. from Dickinson College in 2015. In 2014, she was awarded a nationally-competitive Beinecke Scholarship for graduate study. Prior to joining the department in 2016, Mary taught high school and elementary school language arts.
Her dissertation, Forms of Fantasy: World-Building Between the World Wars, is an in-depth historical account of Anglo-American interwar fantasy literature. It uncovers and examines the various literary and cultural forms that the fantasy genre took during its formation in this period against the backdrop of the rise of the mass cultural genre system and the consolidation of English as an institutional discipline. The archivally-rich project—spanning poetry, drama, short fiction, novels, radio, and film—includes case studies on W. E. B. Du Bois, Lord Dunsany, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the pulp magazine Weird Tales. A driving question is why fantasy remains an ethical and historical problem for twentieth-century studies and genre studies alike, with particular attention to how discourses of race, class, and gender have shaped this generic category. Rather than reproduce transhistorical or ahistorical approaches to genre studies, Forms of Fantasy investigates how attention to material cultures of circulation and reception might alter our conception of fantasy within the context of modernity and literary modernism. More broadly, it asks what a historical poetics of fantasy might illuminate about the knotty concepts of form and genre and the relationship between the two.
In addition to her research, Mary is the Project Manager for the Princeton Prosody Archive, a digital humanities project directed by Associate Professor Meredith Martin and sponsored by Princeton’s Center for Digital Humanities. Since arriving at Princeton, she has worked with the Graduate School and the Center for Career Development in various capacities to expand support for graduate students interested in alternative-academic and post-academic careers. Since 2017, she has been actively involved in enhancing residential life on campus through event planning and programming for both undergraduate and graduate student populations.