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Christopher Kocela

Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies

Ph.D., McGill University


20th-Century American Literature


Dr. Kocela teaches courses in 20th Century American literature, contemporary theory, and popular culture. All of his classes encourage students to view their course texts as sites where historical, philosophical, and ideological discourses meet and compete to determine meaning. By calling attention to the strategies through which a given work foregrounds certain issues while remaining silent about others, Dr. Kocela asks students to consider the way that texts teach us how to read them, and to think of interpretation as a dynamic means of talking back to them.

To date, Dr. Kocela’s research has focused on processes of objectification in fictional and televisual texts.His recent monograph, Fetishism and Its Discontents in Post-1960 American Fiction, argues that novels and short stories by Thomas Pynchon, Kathy Acker, Ishmael Reed, John Hawkes, Robert Coover, and Tim O’Brien advance a post-Enlightenment understanding of fetishism as a strategy for expressing social and political discontent, and for negotiating traumatic experiences particular to the second half of the twentieth century. The history of Western thinking about fetishism is defined by an effort to portray fetishistic belief as the opposite of rational, enlightened thought: in this vein, Hegel, Marx, and Freud share a common emphasis on fetishism as a childlike strategy that blinds one to historical and social change. Fetishism and Its Discontents argues, by contrast, that post-1960 American fiction redefines the fetish as a parallax object that testifies to threatening differences in racial, gender-, and class-based perspectives. In the process, Dr. Kocela’s study portrays the shift toward a post-Enlightenment theory of fetishism as a refusal to tell the same old stories about the fetish and fetishist.



“’All Caucasians Look Alike’: Dreams of Whiteness at the End of The Sopranos.”  The Essential Sopranos Reader.  Ed. Paul Levinson, David Lavery, and Douglas Howard. Lexington: U of Kentucky P, 2011.208-18..

“’Thinking Seriously About Canada’: Defamiliarizing O’Brien’s Work from a Canadian Perspective.” Approaches to Teaching the Works of Tim O’Brien.  Ed. Alex Vernon and Catherine Calloway.  New York: MLA, 2010. 85-92..

“Good Grief, Intimate Strangers, and The Office: Tearful Laughter in the Postdocumentary Age.” On the Verge of Tears: Reflections on Crying.  Ed. Michele Byers and David Lavery. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars P, 2010. 131-44..

Fetishism and Its Discontents in Post-1960 American Fiction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. 270 pp.

“Cynics Encouraged to Apply: The Office as Reality Viewer Training.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 37.4 (2009): 15-22.

“From Object Realism to Magic Materiality: The End(s) of Social Critique in Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent.” South Atlantic Review 73.1 (2008): 68-86.

“From Columbus to Gary Cooper: Mourning the Lost White Father in The Sopranos.” Reading the Sopranos: Hit TV from HBO. Ed. David Lavery. London and New York: I B Taurus, 2006. 107-21.

“Resighting Gender Theory: Butler’s Lesbian Phallus in Acker’s Pussy.” LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory 17.1 (2006): 77-104.

“Unmade Men: The Sopranos After Whiteness.” Postmodern Culture 15.2 (2005): 30pp.
Click here for a text only version of this essay.

“Re-Stenciling Lesbian Fetishism in Pynchon’s V.” Pynchon Notes, 46-49 (2004):105-30..

“A Myth Beyond the Phallus: Female Fetishism in Kathy Acker’s Late Novels.” Genders 34 (2001): 22 pars. 19 Sept 2001.

“A Postmodern Steinbeck, or Rose of Sharon Meets Oedipa Maas.” The Critical Response to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Ed. Barbara Heavilin. Critical Responses in Arts and Letters 37. Westport: Greenwood, 2000. 247-66.

“The Ends of Legal Fetishism: Oedipa Maas as Postmodern Cartographer.” Oklahoma City University Law Review 24.3 (1999), “Pynchon and the Law”: 625-40. Reprinted in The Law and Popular Culture Collection: Legal Narrative E-texts, Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas at Austin. 27 Feb. 2001.

“The Redefining of Self in the ‘Gradual Flux’: An Existentialist Reading of In Dubious Battle.” The Steinbeck Newsletter 10.1 (1996): 1-6.