Laura Shackelford Headshot

Laura Shackelford


Department of English
College of Liberal Arts
Director- Center for Engaged Storycraft

Office Location

Laura Shackelford


Department of English
College of Liberal Arts
Director- Center for Engaged Storycraft


BA, University of Minnesota-Minneapolis; MA, Ph.D. Indiana University



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 occurring 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.


Select Scholarship

Full Length Book
Shackelford, Laura and Bailey, Margaret. Women in Mechanical Engineering: Energy and the Environment. ed. Zurich, Switzerland: Sprimger Nature, 2022. Print.
Shackelford, Laura and Louise Economides. Surreal Entanglements: Essays on Jeff VanderMeer's Fiction. New York, NY: Routledge, 2021. Print.
Shackelford, Laura. Tactics of the Human: Experimental Technics in American Fiction. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2014. Print.
Book Chapter
Laura, Shackelford,. "Mechanical Engineering Micronarratives and/as Changing Stories of Women in STEM." Women in Mechanical Engineering Energy and the Environment. Ed. Margaret Bailey and Laura Shackelford. Zurich, Switzerland: Springer Nature, 2022. 25-37. Print.
Shackelford, Laura. "Strange Matters: More-than-Human Entanglements and Topological Spacetimes." Surreal Entanglements: Essays on Jeff VanderMeer's Fiction. NY, NY: Routledge, 2021. Chapter 6. Print.
Shackelford, Laura. "Introduction to ‘Critical Ecologies After Posthumanism: ‘Extra Ordinary Entanglements’." Post-Digital: Dialogues and Debates from the Electronic Book Review, Vol. II. Ed. Joseph Tabbi. NY, NY: Bloomsbury Press, 2020. 219-228. Print.
Laura, Shackelford,. "Reorienting Poetics through Lived Space." #WomenTechLit. Morgantown, West Virginia: University of West Virginia Press, 2017. 331-354. Print.
Laura, Shackelford,. "Postmodern, Posthuman, Post-digital." The Bloomsbury Handbook of Electronic Literature. London, England: Bloomsbury Scholarly Press, 2017. 335-360. Print.
Shackelford, Laura. "In Toxicating Languages of Bioinformatic Circulation: Poetics and other ‘smallwork’ in The Flame Alphabet." Narrating Life: Contagion, Immunity, Mutation. Ed. Elisabeth Friis and Stefan Herbrechter. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Rodopii/Brill Press, Experimental Practices series, 2016. 147-171. Print.
Shackelford, Laura. "Systems Thinking in Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Moonrise Kingdom." The Films of Wes Anderson: Critical Essays on an Indiewood Icon. Ed. Peter C. Kunze. NY, NY: Palgrave MacMillan Academic Press, 2014. 199-213. Print.
Peer Reviewed/Juried Poster Presentation or Conference Paper
Laura, Shackelford,, et al. "Vertically Integrating E-portfolios and Cooperative Educational Experiences to Develop Students’ Entrepreneurial Mindset." Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), Minneapolis, MN June 2022. Ed. Jason Forsyth. Minneapolis, MN: n.p..
Shackelford, Laura. "Engaged Storycraft as ‘Everyware." Proceedings of the Association for Arts in Research Universities (a2ru). Ed. Veronica Stanich. Ann Arbor, MI: n.p..
Invited Keynote/Presentation
Shackelford, Laura. "American Hypertext Fiction and Theory Revisited." ArTeC. University of Paris-8. Paris, France. 15 Nov. 2021. Guest Lecture.
Shackelford, Laura. "Data Sense-Making." Data and Stories in Digital Health Care. Mixed Methods for Medical Humanities Workshop. Charité – University Medical Center. Berlin, DE. 6 Dec. 2019. Conference Presentation.
Shackelford, Laura. "Discussant, ROUND TABLE “Potential scenarios, values and models for digital humanism”." "Digital humanism: values and models for tomorrow?" An International Symposium. The International Network of ORBICOM chairs and The UNESCO ITEN Chair. Paris, France. 28 Oct. 2016. Conference Presentation.
Shackelford, Laura. "R(e)orienting Poetics through Lived Space." International E-Poetry Festival. University of Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires, AR, Argentina. 9 Jun. 2015. Conference Presentation.
Laura, Shackelford,. "Following through on Touch and Exploratory Play at The Digital Interface." Structures of Digital Feeling Colloquium. Techne Institute for Arts and Emerging Technologies. University of Buffalo. Buffalo, NY. 27 Mar. 2015. Conference Presentation.
Shackelford, Laura. "I'm Right on the Edge Unfolding Wes Anderson's Recursive Gestures Through Media Time." Culture, Literature, and the Arts Program. University of Washington, Bothell. Seattle, WA. 22 Apr. 2014. Guest Lecture.
Shackelford, Laura. "Reading Poetics Through Lived Space." E-Poetry 2014 Intensive Mayaguez. University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. 16 Mar. 2014. Conference Presentation.
Shackelford, Laura. "Moves Like Poetics." EPC @ 20: Electronic Poetry Center's 20th Anniversary Symposium. Department of Media Study, University of Buffalo. Buffalo, NY. 11 Sep. 2014. Conference Presentation.
Shackelford, Laura. "Reorienting Digital Cultures Through American Fiction: Feminist Knowledges of Literary Technics and Lived Space." Invited lecture. Department of English, University of Washington, Seattle. Seattle, WA. 23 Apr. 2014. Guest Lecture.
Invited Article/Publication
Laura, Shackelford,. "Reading Forensics: La Biblioteca Roja: Brevísima relación de la destrucción de los libros." Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism. (2019). Print.
Laura, Shackelford,. "Entry in Web Companion to Amaranth Borsuk's The Book, MIT Press." Essential Knowledge: The Book. (2018). Web.
Shackelford, Laura. "Surviving Codespace: Tracing Lived Space through Digital Literary Writing." WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 44: 1 & 2 (Spring/Summer 2016). (2016). Print.
Shackelford, Laura. "Writing Touch at the Interface: Luxuria Superbia's Exploratory Play with Self-Writing." Frame: Journal of Literary Studies. (2015). Print.
Published Conference Proceedings
Laura, Shackelford,. "R(e)orienting Poetics and Technics of Living Forms: Christian Bök’s The Xenotext: Book I." Proceedings of the 7th International Colloquium on the Philosophy of Technics: Literature, Culture, and Politics. Ed. Berti, Agustin. Cordoba, Argentina: n.p., 2018. Web.
Published Review
Shackelford, Laura. "Reading Topographies of Post-Postmodernism." Rev. of Post-Postmodernism; or, The Cultural Logic of Just-in-Time Capitalism, by Jeffrey T. Nealon. ebr: Electronic Book Review 4 Apr. 2015: 1-15. Web.
Journal Paper
Shackelford, Laura. "Migrating Modes: Multimodality in Digital Poetics as Another Kind of Language." Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 47. 4 (2014): 99-118. Print.

Currently Teaching

3 Credits
We encounter digital texts and codes every time we use a smart phone, turn on an app, read an e-book, or interact online. This course examines the innovative combinations of text and code that underpin emerging textual practices such as electronic literatures, digital games, mobile communication, geospatial mapping, interactive and locative media, augmented reality, and interactive museum design. Drawing on key concepts of text and code in related fields, students will analyze shifting expressive textual practices and develop the literacies necessary to read and understand them. Practicing and reflecting on such new media literacies, the course explores their social, cultural, creative, technological, and legal significance. To encourage multiple perspectives on these pivotal concepts of text and code and their import, the course includes guest lectures by scholars and practitioners in these fields.
3 Credits
In this course students will focus on reading and analyzing storytelling as a literary practice. It introduces the basic elements of narrative and story, acknowledging these as a primary way that we organize information and communicate our experiences, whether in fictional or real-world domains. The course explores defining characters of narrative expression and storytelling: story arcs, conflict, transformation, plot, and structural relationships among characters and also between author, text, and audience/reader. Exploring influential commentary on “story” and considering significant differences between oral, print, and digital storytelling methods, the course invites students to consider how the foundations of storytelling have evolved over time, and how new techniques continue to emerge in the present day.
3 Credits
This course introduces the basic elements of narrative, reflecting on key concepts in narrative theory such as – story and plot, narration and focalization, characterization, storyspace, and worldmaking – to enhance your understanding of how stories work and your ability to understand how such storytelling strategies convey their meaning and themes. After an initial exploration of storytelling traditions emerging from oral myth and short stories in print, we expand our inquiries into what a narrative is and what it can do by considering what happens to storytelling in graphic novels, digital games, and in recent electronic literature. Reflecting on competing definitions and varieties of narrative, the course raises the overarching question of why how we access, read, write, and circulate stories as a culture matters. Expect to read stories in a variety of media, to review basic concepts and conversations drawn from narrative theory, and to creatively experiment with the storytelling strategies we are analyzing in class. No familiarity with specific print, digital, or visual media necessary, though a willingness to read and reflect on stories in various media and to analyze their cultural significance will be essential.
1 - 6 Credits
A program of study executed by an individual student with assistance and guidance by an instructor, outside a regular classroom setting. Guidelines for designing and gaining approval for an independent study are provided in College of Liberal Arts Policy I.D.

In the News

  • October 5, 2022

    Spooky Storytelling event open to junior and senior women and non-bianary students from the Greater Rochester area

    Spooky Storytelling event open to high school junior and senior women and non-binary students

    Thanks to a grant from the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation through the New ERA Women Writers Grant Program, the Center for Engaged Storycraft at Rochester Institute of Technology is hosting a series of events throughout the school year – the latest being a Spooky Storytelling event Oct. 29 for 11th- and 12th-grade women and non-binary students from the Greater Rochester area.

  • November 23, 2020

    laptop screen with a Zoom meeting in progress.

    RIT's study abroad experiences continue on virtually despite travel restrictions

    When Carla Stebbins redesigned the health systems management MS degree, she included a culminating travel course in Sweden for her students to observe a different approach to health care. Stebbins, program director, built the online hybrid program to educate health care leaders to navigate a quickly changing field and widen their perspective. Even though COVID-19 canceled the trip, Stebbins found a solution