Michael James Harrington

Michael J. Harrington is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English, pursuing graduate certificates in Gender and Sexuality Studies and African American Studies. He is a 2022 - 2023 Bain-Swiggett Assistant in Research Fellow. His research and teaching interests include modern American literature, film and media, popular culture and art, the phenomenology of gender, and minoritarian aesthetics. He earned his B.A. (magna cum laude with distinction) in English and Sociology from Amherst College.

Michael’s dissertation, Masc On, Masc Off: Masculine Gimmicks and Queer Outskirts, excavates an expressive life of modern queerness wherein minoritarian peoples enact self-narrativization, cultural recovery, and collective futurity in ostensibly gender-regressive settings. Masc On, Masc Off theorizes gimmicks—embodied shorthand for announcing sexual, gendered, and racial selves—and reveals the queer influence upon three masculine gimmicks: the cowboy, the mobster, and the preacher. Analyzing popular American artifacts and their historical legacies, the project conducts a cultural genealogy, demonstrating that masculine archetypes originate in outskirts: spaces around cis-cultural edges where local norms preside over heteronormative structures. Masc On, Masc Off charts how, in the absence of truly “safe spaces,” queer subjects gravitate to the alterneity of outskirts—even when such settings threaten queer expression. Queer life, however, isn’t merely found in reputedly unwelcoming sites. As outskirts are places of otherness formed by anomalous impulses, the versions of celebrated American masculinity that emerge from these worlds are also shaped by queerness. By considering a wide-ranging archive from The Virginian to Lil Nas X, Sonia Sanchez to The Sopranos, and James Baldwin to Frank Ocean, Masc On, Masc Off argues that America’s masculine archetypes and the spaces which valorize them have always been queer.

As a doctoral candidate, Michael has served as graduate director of Poetry@Princeton and head librarian of the Bain-Swiggett Library of Contemporary Poetry. He was the inaugural graduate assistant for Organizing Stories, a student-focused initiative supported by a Humanities Council Exploratory Grant to explore the relationship between storytelling and activism.

Michael has assisted in instruction for "American Cinema," and “Literature, Food, and the American Racial Diet.” During the summer, he is an Academic Director for the Great Books Summer Program. He is also a Pushcart-nominated poet, co-writer of a Time Magazine Top 10 Video Game of 2018, and at work on an intersectional historical Western screenplay.