Zach Horton is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. His research explores scale in/and ecomedia at the intersections of media studies, American literature, science studies, and the environmental humanities. He received his Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2015. He received his MFA in Film Directing from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2005.
“Going Rogue or Becoming Salmon?: Geoengineering Narratives in Haida Gwaii” Cultural Critique. (Forthcoming)
“Toward a Speculative Nano-Ecology: Trans-Scalar Knowledge, Disciplinary Boundaries, and Ecology’s Posthuman Horizon” Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, Volume 2, Number 3. 2016. View here (restricted access).
“Producing a Cosmic View: Four Alternatives for Trans-Scalar Ecology” in Size and Scale in Literature and Culture. Edited by Michael Travel Clarke and David Wittenberg. (Accepted, book under review)
“Ant and Empire: Mediating Trans-Scalar Territoriality and the Problem of Reciprocal Becomings” in Deleuze and the Animal. Edited by Patricia MacCormack and Colin Gardner. (Forthcoming from Edinburgh University Press)
“Creative Accounting in Hollywood: Faulkner’s Transmedial Ledger” in Picturing Faulkner: The Visual World of William Faulkner. (Accepted, book under review)
“Collapsing Scale: Nanotechnology and Geoengineering as Speculative Media” in Shaping Emerging Technologies: Governance, Innovation, Discourse. Edited by Kornelia Konrad, Christopher Coenen, Anne Dijkstra, Colin Milburn and Harro van Lente, IOS Press / AKA, Berlin, 2013.
“Can You Starve a Body Without Organs? The Hunger Artists of Franz Kafka and Steve McQueen” Deleuze Studies, Volume 6.1. February 2012. University of Edinburgh Press
RECENT COURSES TAUGHT
This project seminar tackles cultural objects from a multi-scalar perspective. How can we adequately analyze something as large as 27 years of The Simpsons? How can we trace large scale change in a cultural form without losing sight of its vitally important minutiae? Are close reading and distant reading compatible? In this course we develop such a multi-scalar reading practice while collectively analyzing the flora and fauna of Emily Dickinson’s entire oeuvre, the full collection of all US presidential nomination speeches (back to Abraham Lincoln), and over 600 episodes of The Simpsons. View examples of student individual and group projects here.
English 193: Postmodern Detective Fiction
Why has the detective genre proven so fertile for postmodern authors? We’ll examine how the genre helped to define the pre-occupations of literary postmodernism as well as how the postmodern sensibility transformed the genre.
English 140: Contemporary American Fiction: Encryption
This course utilizes the critical frame of encryption to re-consider contemporary literature as a process of encrypting one form of information into another, as well as the commensurate process of applying keys to the decoding of narrative.
Environmental Studies / English 122: Literature and the Environment: Speculative Ecologies
As a knowledge practice that uncovers strange interdependencies, complex food webs, and bizarre niches for even more bizarre creatures, ecology unsettles us with the alienness of the environment around us. Nonetheless, as a scientific endeavor, ecology is usually framed as a passive gathering of information, an uncovering of relationships that will enable a more complete description of a particular environment. This course asks what happens when ecology becomes a speculative and creative endeavor, an exploration not of a pre-existing system that we can already experience as an environment, but a radically new world. The speculative works that we will examine create imaginative worlds that are experientially alien to us, yet treat them as complex ecological systems. Imaginative encounters with these category-defying environments will challenge us to to think critically about what constitutes an ecosystem, and the implicit boundaries and limitations of ecology as we practice and experience it today. Syllabus.
English 10: Introduction to Literary Study: Fiction as Speculation
This course focuses on one of literature’s primary contributions to society: the task of producing imaginative new possibilities and pathways. This is the great literary tradition of speculation. How, speculative literature asks, could our world be ordered differently? What potentials have we failed to actualize? How could things be better (or worse)? How, in short, does literature chart new, alternative futures for our culture? Syllabus.
English 192: Science Fiction: Post- Trans- Non-Human
What, if anything, does “the human” mean today? This course attempts to parse out three different frameworks for thinking about the future of the human, each tied to a different body of narratives and the philosophical programs developed in them: the Posthuman, the Transhuman, and the Non-Human. How does science fiction police or irrupt the boundaries between these forms? Regardless of how the future actually plays out, do these considerations change the way we can or should think about the human in the present? Syllabus.
English 193: Detective Fiction: The Case of the Deadly Signifier
We will survey detective fiction from Sophocles to Pynchon, uncovering some of the victims of the quest for meaning, order, and narrative closure. From the ratiocinators of 19th century detective fiction to the hardboiled gumshoes who implicate themselves in the signifying chain by taking on the wrong case, to postmodern investigators who unravel the incoherence of meaning itself, detective fiction has always been fertile—if deadly—ground for investigating the relationship between language and reality. Syllabus.
English 149: Media and Information Culture: Macro-Micro-Reading (co-taught with Jeremy Douglass)
In this course we examine objects that are challenging to read for a variety of reasons: things that are too large, too small, too slow, too fast, or too changeable for us to fully understand using conventional reading practices. We consider alternative modes of reading at different scales, evaluating these methods as well as the objects to be read by and through them. Our goal is simultaneously theoretical and practical: to develop a toolbox that enables an expanded form of literacy–a literacy of the unreadable. This is a collaborative project-building course. Archived Course Site. Syllabus.
English 103A: American Literature from 1789 to 1900
Nations aren’t born; they’re made. During this 2012 election season we will take a hard look at the formative period of the United States through its literature. How were competing notions of nationhood and identity circulated in the discourse of the late 18th and early 19th century, and what effects did they produce? We’ll consider the “United States” not as a fixed entity, but as a series of discursive productions. We will explore how American literature of the period traces many of the fault lines and sites of twenty-first century contestations of identity, values, and relationships to nature, land, and the world at large in the not-so-United States. Syllabus.