Department of English Language and Literature and the College
Sianne Ngai specializes in American literature, literary and cultural theory, and feminist studies. Her first book, Ugly Feelings, explores chronic, non-cathartic states of feeling, such as envy, irritation, and paranoia, that are associated with situations in which action is blocked or suspended. Her second book, Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting, was awarded the Modern Language Association’s James Russell Lowell Prize for best book, and the Ray and Pat Browne Award for Best Primary Source Work, given by the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association. Her new book in progress, “Theory of the Gimmick,” explores the uneasy mix of attraction and repulsion produced by the gimmick across a range of forms specific to western capitalism. These include fictions by Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, Gertrude Stein, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, and Henry James; 20th-century poetic stunts; the video installations of contemporary artist Stan Douglas; reality television; and the novel of ideas.
Ngai was the recipient of a Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study Berlin. She holds a BA in semiotics (honors), English literature (honors), and history of art and architecture from Brown University, and a PhD in English and American literature from Harvard University. She was awarded an honorary doctor of philosophy degree in humanities from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.