Michael Swacha

403 Neville Hall
University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469-5752 U.S.A.

Office Hours – Spring 2020

T/Th 4:00-4:30pm


PhD, Literature, Duke University, 2018

MA, English, Georgetown University, 2011

BA, English and Philosophy, University of Georgia, 2009

BA, Political Science, University of Georgia, 2005



Modernist Fiction, 19th/20th Century and Contemporary Continental Philosophy, History of Literary Theory and Criticism, History of Western Thought (Enlightenment to Contemporary), Physics and Literature

My current book project, provisionally titled Modernist Form: Literature, Fragmentation, and Possibility across an Episteme, explores the way in which fragmentation opens a space for imagining new forms of human relationality both in literature and in the various institutions and disciplines across western modernism more broadly. Chapters consider, for example, Ford’s Parade’s End and security/administrative governance, Woolf’s The Waves and physics, Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and advertising, and Joyce’s Ulysses and finance.  In reading the form of fragmentation comparatively across these otherwise seemingly disparate domains, I argue that certain affinities pervade the form, or architecture, of knowledge constituting western modernism, which accounts for my turn to Foucault’s use of the concept episteme. What I posit more broadly, then, is that western, or transatlantic, modernism contains not only the dominant epistemological form of politics, culture, and being that is typically (and most explicitly) accounted for, but also an under-examined, or even under-recognized, form of being and relationality simultaneously existing alongside and within it.

My second book project, still in an early stage, will explore the concepts dynamism and energy in modernist fiction.  Much of the scholarly work on the relationship of these concepts to modernism focuses on poetics and visual art (such as vorticism and futurism), so I am interested in expanding this work to see how the concepts also function in narrative form. Specifically, how does modernist fiction take on certain notions of dynamism and energy that were cultivated in the physics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as with research in thermodynamics and quantum mechanics? Building on the broader questions of my first book project, and given that Aristotle’s use of the Greek dunamis and energeia are often translated as “potentiality” and “actuality” respectively, I also ask what new forms of relationality and being are imagined in modernist fiction as a result of engagement with these concepts?



“Against Teleologism: Notes on Madness, Reason, and Sovereignty in the Foucault/Derrida Debate,” diacritics 44, No. 4 (2016), pp. 66-88.

“Comparing Structures of Knowledge.” ACLA Report on the State of the Discipline 2014-2015, ed. Ursula Heise et al. 15 June 2015. http://stateofthediscipline.acla.org/entry/comparing-structures-knowledge-0.

“Should We Justify the Humanities?: A Round Table with David Damrosch, Lois Zamora, and Marianne Hirsch,” ed. and intro. Michael Swacha, Comparative Literature Studies 51, No. 4 (December 2014), pp. 587-602.

“Book Review: Roberto Esposito, Immunitas: The Protection and Negation of Life,” Polygraph: An International Journal of Culture and Politics 23/24 (Fall 2013), pp. 197-203.


Recent and Upcoming Presentations

“Narrative Form and the Relations of Being: Exploring the Intersection of Lacan, Adorno, and Henry James,” Modern Language Association, January 2020.

“Sovereignty and the Utopian Possibility of Fragmented Experience: Reading Christopher Tietjens as Ford Madox Ford’s Test Case,” American Comparative Literature Association, March 2019.