Jay Clayton (critic)

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Jay Clayton
Jay Clayton (critic).jpg
Born John Bunyan Clayton, IV
(1951-07-11)11 July 1951
Dallas, Texas, United States
Nationality American
Occupation Literary critic, professor
Spouse(s) Ellen Wright Clayton (m. 1982)
Academic background
Alma mater Yale University
University of Virginia
Academic work
Institutions University of Wisconsin–Madison
Vanderbilt University
Main interests Literature, Science, Technology

Jay Clayton (born July 11, 1951 in Dallas, Texas, as John B. Clayton, IV) is an American literary critic who is known for his pioneering work on the relationship between nineteenth-century culture and postmodernism.[1] He has published influential works on Romanticism and the novel,[2] Neo-Victorian literature,[3] steampunk,[4] hypertext fiction,[5] online games,[6] contemporary American fiction,[7] technology in literature,[8] and genetics in literature and film.[9] He is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English and Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University.

Academic career[edit]

Clayton attended Highland Park High School in Dallas, Texas and the Hill School, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, before going on to receive his B.A. from Yale University. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 1979. He taught English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before moving to Vanderbilt University in 1988. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1999. As Chair of the English department at Vanderbilt from 2003 to 2010, he helped recruit renowned professors to the university.[10]

His first book Romantic Vision and the Novel, published by Cambridge University Press in 1987, compared Victorian realist fiction with romantic poetry. It proposed a theory of Romantic visionary moments in nineteenth-century English fiction as lyric disruptions of the narrative line.[2]

His book on multiculturalism in American fiction and theory, Pleasures of Babel: Contemporary American Literature and Theory, published by Oxford University Press in 1993, was selected by Choice as An Outstanding Academic Book for 1995. Surveying American fiction and literary theory from the 1970s-1990s, Clayton argued for the political and social power of narratives.[11]

His best known book, Charles Dickens in Cyberspace: The Afterlife of the Nineteenth Century in Postmodern Culture, was published by Oxford University Press in 2003. It won the Suzanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship in 2004.[12] Moving from Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, Clayton shows how Victorian literature and technology reverberates in contemporary American culture.[13]

Clayton was an early adopter of digital approaches to pedagogy, teaching classes on hypertext and computer games beginning in 1996.[14] In 2013, he launched a highly successful MOOC on the Coursera platform titled “Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative,” which has reached over 85,000 students from more than 120 countries around the world.[15][6] More recently, his classes have focused on literature, genetics, and science policy.[16]



  • 2003, Charles Dickens in Cyberspace: The Afterlife of the Nineteenth Century in Postmodern Culture
  • 1993, The Pleasures of Babel: Contemporary American Literature and Theory
  • 1987, Romantic Vision and the Novel

Edited collections[edit]

  • 2007, Genomics in Literature, Visual Arts, and Culture. Co-edited with Priscilla Wald
  • 2002, Time and the Literary. Co-edited with Marianne Hirsch and Karen Newman
  • 1991, Influence and Intertextuality in Literary History. Co-edited with Eric Rothstein
  • 1988, Contemporary Literature and Contemporary Theory. Co-edited with Betsy Draine

Selected Articles[edit]

  • 2016, “The Modern Synthesis: Genetics and Dystopia in the Huxley Circle,” Modernism/Modernity
  • 2013, “The Ridicule of Time: Science Fiction, Bioethics, and the Posthuman,” American Literary History
  • 2013, “Genome Time: Post-Darwinism, Then and Now,” Critical Quarterly
  • 2012, “Touching the Telectroscope: Haptic Communications,” Journal of Victorian Culture
  • 2012, “The Dickens Tape: Affect and Sound Reproduction in The Chimes,” Essays and Studies
  • 2012, “The Future of Victorian Literature,” Cambridge History of Victorian Literature
  • 2009, “Literature and Science Policy: A New Project for the Humanities,” PMLA
  • 2007, “Victorian Chimeras, or, What Literature Can Contribute to Genetics Policy Today,” New Literary History
  • 2003, “Frankenstein's Futurity,” The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley
  • 2002, “Convergence of the Two Cultures: A Geek’s Guide to Contemporary Literature,” American Literature
  • 2002, “Genome Time,” Time and the Literary
  • 2000, “Hacking the Nineteenth Century,” Victorian Afterlife: Postmodern Culture Rewrites the Nineteenth Century
  • 1997, “The Voice in the Machine: Hazlitt, Hardy, James,” Language Machines: Technologies of Literary and Cultural Production
  • 1996, “Concealed Circuits: Frankenstein's Monster, the Medusa, and the Cyborg,” Raritan
  • 1995, “Londublin: Dickens's London in Joyce's Dublin,” Novel: A Forum on Fiction
  • 1995, “Is Pip Postmodern? or, Dickens at the End of the Twentieth Century,” Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism: Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations”
  • 1993, “A Portrait of the Romantic Poet as a Young Modernist: Literary History as Textual Unconscious,” Joyce: The Return of the Repressed
  • 1991, “Dickens and the Genealogy of Postmodernism,” Nineteenth Century Literature
  • 1991, “The Alphabet of Suffering: Effie Deans, Tess Durbeyfield, Martha Ray, and Hetty Sorrel,” Influence and Intertextuality in Literary History
  • 1991, “Figures in the Corpus: Theories of Influence and Intertextuality” (with Eric Rothstein), Influence and Intertextuality in Literary History
  • “The Narrative Turn in Recent Minority Fiction,” American Literary History
  • 1989, “Narrative and Theories of Desire,” Critical Inquiry
  • 1979, “Visionary Power and Narrative Form: Wordsworth and Adam Bede,” ELH


  • 2016, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Queen Mary University, London[17]
  • 2014, Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor Award, Vanderbilt University[18]
  • 2005, Suzanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship[12]
  • 1999, John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship[19]
  • 1996-99, The English Institute Board of Supervisors[20]
  • 1997, Spence Lee Wilson and Rebecca Webb Fellow, Robert Penn Warren Center for Humanities[21]
  • 1995-96, President, Society for the Study of Narrative Literature[22][21]
  • 1988, Robert A. Partlow Award, The Dickens Society[21]
  • 1986, Distinguished Teaching Award, University of Wisconsin[21]
  • 1981, American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship[23][21]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Sadoff, Dianne F. (Spring 2004). "Charles Dickens in Cyberspace: The Afterlife of the Nineteenth Century in Postmodern Culture (review)". Victorian Studies. 46 (3): 505–507. doi:10.1353/vic.2004.0137. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  2. ^ a b Felluga, Dino Franco (Winter 2003). "Novel Poetry: Transgressing the Law of Genre". Victorian Studies. 41 (4): 490–499. doi:10.1353/vp.2004.0003. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  3. ^ Johnston, Judith; Waters, Catherine (2008). "Introduction". In Gay, Penny; Johnston, Judith; Waters, Catherine. Victorian Turns, NeoVictorian Returns: Essays on Fiction and Culture. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 2. ISBN 978-1-847-18662-1. 
  4. ^ Siemann, Catherine (2013). "Some Notes on the Steampunk Social Problem Novel". In Taddeo, Julie Anne; Miller, Cynthia J. Steaming Into a Victorian Future: A Steampunk Anthology. Scarecrow Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-810-88586-8. 
  5. ^ Latimer, Heather (Summer 2011). "Reproductive Technologies, Fetal Icons, and Genetic Freaks: Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl and the Limits and Possibilities of Donna Haraway's Cyborg". MFS Modern Fiction Studies. 57 (2): 318–335. doi:10.1353/mfs.2011.0051. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  6. ^ a b Poisso, Lisa (2013-02-07). "What can WoW and other MMOs teach us about literature and storytelling?". engadget. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  7. ^ Nadel, Alan (Summer 1994). "The Pleasures of Babel: Contemporary American Literature and Theory (review)". MFS Modern Fiction Studies. 40 (2): 371–373. doi:10.1353/mfs.0.0808. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  8. ^ Moore, Grace (2012). The Victorian Novel in Context. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-441-12413-5. 
  9. ^ Oikkonen, Venla (2017). Population Genetics and Belonging: A Cultural Analysis of Genetic Ancestry. Springer. p. 135. ISBN 978-3-319-62881-3. 
  10. ^ Jaschik, Scott (2006-05-22). "Vanderbilt Rising". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  11. ^ Kalaidjian, Walter (Autumn 1996). "Reading the Multicultural Text". Contemporary Literature. 37 (3): 492–500. doi:10.2307/1208720. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  12. ^ a b "Sixth Annual Book Prize" (2004) [Glasscock Prize Winners]. Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research. Texas A&M University.
  13. ^ Walton, Priscilla (Spring 2005). "Postmillennial Victorian Studies". Contemporary Literature. 46 (1): 134–138. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  14. ^ Clayton, Jay (Fall 1996). "English 295 - Postmodernism and the Culture of Cyberspace". www.vanderbilt.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  15. ^ Clayton, Jay. "Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative". Coursera. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  16. ^ "Bioculture Seminars". Wordpress. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  17. ^ "Genetics and dystopia in the Huxley circle". Queen Mary University, London. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  18. ^ "Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor Award". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  19. ^ "Jay Clayton". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  20. ^ "Tense/Times: Literature, Anxiety, Temporality". The English Institute 1999. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  21. ^ a b c d e Clayton, Jay (January 2007). "Vita". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  22. ^ "Frontmatter". Narrative. 4 (1). 1996. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  23. ^ "John B. Clayton F'81". ACLS. 1981. Retrieved 2013-03-10.