Alison Sperling received her PhD in Literature and Cultural Theory from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2017. From 2017-18 she taught in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Santa Clara University. Her dissertation manuscript, titled Weird Modernisms, examines the temporality of weird embodiment in Modernist literary texts through queer and feminist science studies and theories of the nonhuman.
Her publications include essays and reviews in the journals Rhizomes: Cultural Studies of Emerging Knowledge, Girlhood Studies, Paradoxa, Kunstlicht, PhiloSOPHIA: A Society for Continental Feminism, Science Fiction Film and Television, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. She has chapters in Lovecraft Annual and in The Bloomsbury Handbook of 21st Century Feminist Theory, with chapters forthcoming on Star Trek ecologies and on plants in speculative fiction. Her research interests include The Weird, queer and feminist theory, 20th and 21st Century American Literature, nuclear culture, science fiction, and the Anthropocene.
ICI Project 2018-20
This research project, tentatively titled ‘Nuclear Afterlives’, examines the complex and conflicting residues of nuclear contamination, and some of nonhuman harborers of these residues. Following Sperling’s first book project on weird embodiment in modernism, this new project seeks to chart what (may be called) the weird across more contemporary texts and landscapes. Currently this research is focused on radioactive boar, which have, according to popular journalism coverage world-wide, run rampant and free in areas that are now too toxic for human life to thrive. Through scientific and cultural studies of post-nuclear catastrophe sites like Fukushima and Chernobyl, including contemporary cultural texts about these disasters, as well as 21st century weird fiction exemplified by Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, this project seeks to examine the contours of contaminated life in the Anthropocene.
Against popular framings of resilience and adaptability, Sperling hopes to challenge the ways we think about toxic bodies and environments in an age when toxicity is not the exception but the rule. What do these (relatively) new forms of radioactive bodies (human and nonhuman, alive and not) enable us to understand about embodiment in the Anthropocene? How does the temporality of nuclear contamination reframe ecological time and potentially refuse the teleology of reproductive futurity?