Collegiate Assistant Professor, Humanities
Core: Reading Cultures
Jessica Hurley works on twentieth and twenty-first century American literatures, with a particular focus on how narrative forms organize our literary, social, and infrastructural worlds. Her current research explores the relationship between American literature and the nuclear complex, demonstrating the extent to which apocalyptic narrative forms are used to both enforce and resist the destructive logics of the nuclear age as they play out unevenly across axes of race, sexuality, and citizenship. Her book manuscript, Infrastructures of the Apocalypse: American Literature and the Nuclear Complex, argues that existing accounts of the nuclear as a sublime paradox or a future threat occlude its very tangible operations in the present, as budgets, laws, environments, and other quotidian infrastructures are formed and deformed by the state’s commitment to nuclear technology. “Impossible Futures” reads works by authors as disparate as James Baldwin, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Ayn Rand alongside government documents, missile defense systems, and urban landscapes to show how writers use apocalypse to resist a nuclear state that writes them as inherently futureless, exploding futures that have no place for them in order to establish more livable presents.
Jessica received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 with the support of a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship. Her research and teaching areas include 20th and 21st century American and Anglophone literature, African American and Native American literature, gender and sexuality studies, sci-fi and speculative fiction, and the environmental humanities. Her work has appeared in Extrapolation, Frame, The Faulkner Journal, and The Silence of Fallout: Nuclear Criticism in a Post-Cold War World. She is also a practicing theater artist whose work with the ensembles Applied Mechanics and The Bearded Ladies has toured from Texas to Maine and been featured in American Theater Magazine and National Geographic.