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Laura Shackelford

Laura Shackelford - Photo
Associate Professor / Director, Center for Engaged Storycraft
2116 Liberal Arts
(585) 475-2461
Ph.D. in English. Indiana University, Bloomington.
B.A. in English. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


My research focuses on narrative and literary practices and the transformations they have gone through in relation to emerging sciences of cybernetics, information, systems theory, and the physical sciences since World War II. I explore contemporary fiction, digital literature, interactive narrative, and storytelling hybrids (at the interstices of digital games, or animation, or film, or photography, or new media). Such literary experiments with emerging digital media, infrastructures and spatiotemporalities can help to diagnose and register significant changes in 21st century cultures and their increasingly embedded, computation-based processes and environments. Such fiction often directly engages with emerging material sciences, genomics, visualization software, and distributed networks to creatively reflect on the social, cultural, and artistic potentialities of, and unexplored dimensions to these emerging knowledges. They comparatively reflect on the consequences of these shifts to prior gendered and racialized, colonialist understandings of space, time, nation, and the global. Bringing scientific practices and storyworlds into conversation, their creative speculation serves as an important epistemological driver in conversation with these other material, technological, and symbolic practices.

In my book, Tactics of the Human: Experimental Technics in American Fiction, these interests led me to explore fiction published in the midst of the supposed 'digital revolution' from 1991-2002 that reflects on digital cultures by literally incorporating digital modes of expression and spatial forms (such as the hyperlink, or social network) into the print medium or reconsidering print literary practices by transposing them into a digital hypertext fiction. I argue that such experimental, cross-media literary encounters with digital cultures enable us to critically reflect on contemporary digital cultures, information and systems sciences, and computation-based technologies in the U.S. Literary texts such as John Barth's "Click," Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl; or a Modern Monster, and Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead creatively and critically anticipate transformations digital cultures (and the post-war cybernetics, information, and systems sciences on which they draw) have since come to realize. They exploit these comparative media practices at the interstices of print and digital to reconsider potential alternatives to print-based understandings of sex, gender, identity, race, sexuality, nation, and the human that have defined the past centuries.

In more recent work, I consider digital literary writing, interactive, mixed-reality and augmented-reality narrative experiments as crucial means of engaging with transformations in lived space that are occuring at multiple scales and differentialy unfolding at sites as diverse as New York; Toronto; Accra, Ghana; Cotonou, Benin; Buenos Aires and Cordoba, Argentina today. Locating these contemporary digital literary practices within a longer history of literary practices of spatio-temporal, cultural, and social “re-orientation,” (in Sara Ahmed’s terms) I am interested in identifying the ways in which digital literary fiction is in conversation with bioinformatic sciences and computationally dense lifeworlds and how together they might allow us to reconsider human orientations to larger nonhuman macro and microworlds, and to re-think relationality more generally. This current book project is tentatively titled, Ordinary Entanglements: Digital Language, Bioinformatics, and New Fictions of Lived Space.


Surreal Entanglements: Essays on Jeff VanderMeer’s Fiction. Co-edited with Louise Economides, Ph.D. Submitting book prospectus in December 2018.

Women in Mechanical Engineering: Energy and the Environment. Co-edited with Margaret Bailey, Ph.D., P.E. Women in Engineering series. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature Switzerland AG. Forthcoming in 2020.

“Postmodern, Posthuman, Post-digital.” In The Bloomsbury Handbook of Electronic Literature, ed Joseph Tabbi. NY: Bloomsbury Press, December 2017. Collection received the N. Katherine Hayles Award for Critical Writing in 2018.

“R(e)orienting Poetics through Lived Space.” In #WomenTechLit, edited book collection by María Mencía published by West Virginia University Press, September 2017.

“Surviving Codespace: Tracing Lived Space through Digital Literary Writing.” Special issue on “Survival.” ed. Fran Bartowski, Elena Glasberg and Taylor Black. WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 44: 1 & 2 (Spring/Summer 2016).

Tactics of the Human: Experimental Technics in American Fiction. University of Michigan Press, digitalculturebooks series, Dec. 2014.


In direct and lively relation to my research, current teaching includes courses in:

  • ENGL 375 Storytelling Across Media
  • ENGL 215 Text & Code: Expressive Practices and Computational Media
  • ENGL 320 Science Fiction: Fictionality and Other Worlds
  • ENGL 309 Topics in Literary Form - The Novel
  • ENGL 410 / WGST 410 Topics in Women’s and Gender Studies: Knowledge-Building in Practice
  • Transnational Workshop: Digital Creation ‘Beyond the Screen’ with l’Université Paris-8
  • Independent Study: Applied Transmedia Storytelling

Recent Presentations:

“Storying the ‘Micro-physics of Destruction’ : La Biblioteca Roja: Brevísima relacíon de la destrucción de los libros.” Panel on Engaged Storycraft: Unthought Technicalities. “Out of Mind.” Society for Literature, Arts, and the Sciences (SLSA) Annual Conference. Toronto, CA: Nov, 2018.

“Story Arcades: New Fictions of Lived Space.” Digital Humanities On-Site: Engaged Networks, Technologies and Aesthetics. Symposium organized with University of Ghana, University of Paris 8, l'institut Cerco, and Rochester Institute of Technology. Cotonou, Benin, March 14-15, 2018.

“Reorienting” Sciences and Storyworlds – PostEuclidean Spaces and Posthumanist Knowledges in The Southern Reach Trilogy.” Panel on Weird Ecology: Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy and Environmental Resistance. American Society for Literature and the Environment (ASLE) Conference, July 2017, Detroit, MI.

Discussant, Round Table on “Potential scenarios, values, and models for digital humanism.” International Colloquium on Digital Humanism: Values and Models for Tomorrow. Organized by the UNESCO ITEN Chair in Communication. Paris, France, 28 October, 2016.

“R(e)orienting Poetics and Technics of Living Forms: Christian Bök’s The Xenotext: Book I.” 7th International Colloquium on the Philosophy of Technics: Literature, Culture, and Politics. University of Cordoba, Argentina. Oct. 18, 2016.