Professor of English, Cornell University, 1992-2001
Visiting Professor, Free University, Berlin, 1998 (Literature and Cultural Studies, Kennedy Institute of North American Studies)
Visiting Professor, Stanford University, Humanities Interdisciplinary Program, Winter 1999
Distinguished Chair in American Studies, Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, Humboldt-University, Berlin 2000-01
Evan Frankel Professor of Literature, University of California at Los Angeles, 2001-present
American Literature and Culture; Modernity; Cultural Studies, Systems Theory
The Suspended World
This project starts from a simple premise: a modern world comes to itself by staging its own conditions. A modern world is a self-conditioning one. If, prior to the nineteenth century, society could not describe itself, now it cannot stop describing itself—in an attempt to catch up with what it is generating. Or, as the great science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem neatly put it: "In the Eolithic age there were no seminars on whether to invent the Paleolithic.” A modern society—which is to say, a continuously self-monitoring, auto-updating, and modernizing one—is what Durkheim (inaugurating modern sociology, and so indicating a society on the way to self-description) described as an "almost sui generis" society. The autotropic character of that world makes up what Durkheim also would call a social fact.