Mark Seltzer

English Studies, Los Angeles
Fellowship: 01.04.–20.07.2015


  • 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


Fields of Research

  • American Literature and Culture
  • Modernity
  • Cultural Studies
  • Systems Theory


Project outline

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.


Publications (Selection)

  • The Official World (forthcoming, Duke University Press, 2015).
  • Bodies and Machines (Routledge, Taylor & Francis, new edition, forthcoming 2015: hardback, paper, and electronic versions).
  • True Crime: Observations on Violence and Modernity (New York: Routledge, Chapman, and Hall, 2007; and London: Routledge, Chapman, and Hall, 2007).
  • Serial Killers: Death and Life in America's Wound Culture (New York and London: Routledge, 1998).
  • Bodies and Machines (New York and London: Routledge, 1992).
  • Henry James and the Art of Power (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1984).