Photo of Ellen McCallum. Middle aged woman with glasses, short heathered black and grey hair, wearing a grey quarter zip.

Ellen McCallum

Critical Theory | Film Studies| Queer Theory | Feminist Studies | LGBTQ Studies | American Literature 

Office: C624 Wells Hall

Ellen McCallum’s teaching and research range across feminist and queer theory, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, aesthetics, American literature, and film studies. Her most recent monograph, Unmaking The Making of Americans: Toward an Aesthetic Ontology, takes up questions of aesthetic relation, reading practice, form, temporality, emotion, and narrative, engaging them through Stein’s monumental novel The Making of Americans (SUNY 2018).  A recent essay in the MLA’s volume Approaches to Teaching Gertrude Stein argues for the usefulness—necessity, even—of teaching Stein’s intimidatingly long novel.

Co-edited volumes include After Queer Studies: Literature, Theory, and Sexuality in the 21st Century (Cambridge 2019), with Tyler Bradway, as well as The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature (2013) and Queer Times, Queer Becomings (SUNY2011), both coedited with Mikko Tuhkanen. 
McCallum’s first book, Object Lessons: How to Do Things with Fetishism, reclaimed perversion as a productive paradigm for feminist theory. Through a close reading in the passages in Freud’s work where fetishism appears, McCallum shows how fetishism undermines the precarious binaries of masculinity/femininity or perverse /normal or heterosexual/homosexual and that fetishism’s disruption even troubles the subject/object binary that founds Western metaphysics. Fetishism’s ability to produce a multiplicity of sexual differences and to negotiate loss through a generative practice of substitution and interpretation holds valuable object lessons for postmodern feminist theory.

Recent essays have investigated the animate spaces of Antonioni’s road films (Quarterly Review of Film and Video), 21st-century melodrama from women directors (camera obscura); the aesthetic subject in Proust, Bersani, and Sade (Leo Bersani: Queer Theory and Beyond); and defined the queer modern gothic (Cambridge Companion to the Modern Gothic). 

An earlier series of essays have investigated transmedial forms on the boundary between the verbal and the visual. One such essay on Anne Carson’s novel in verse, Autobiography of Red, reconsiders classic photography theory in light of the tensions around that book’s verbal photographs (postmodern culture). Another essay explores how montage in Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera helps us teach Faulkner’s As I Lay DyingA third examines telephonicity and the formation of the informational subject in Gaddis’s JR.

McCallum teaches core courses ranging from the fundamentals of literary and critical theory for undergraduate or graduate students, to film and media theory. In addition, McCallum offers courses in feminist and queer film, women’s experimental writing in the tradition of Dickinson and Stein, and LGBTQ studies. McCallum’s most recent graduate seminars have focused on queer and feminist forms for reading as well as digital mapping and new narrative.


Critical Theory (all under ENG802):
Does Language Speak Us?
Reading, Writing, and Form
On Representation (hybrid grad/undergrad ENG481/802)
Reading Psychoanalysis for Reading

Queer Theory, Feminist Theory, and LGBTQ Studies:

ENG355: Literature and Sexuality: A World of LGBTQ Literature
ENG482: Feminist Criticism: Freud and Feminism
ENG819: Queer Theory: What to Do with Bodies and Pleasures
ENG820: Sade and Feminism
ENG820: Reading Feminist Reading Queer Reading
ENG886: About Time—Feminism and Queer Theory
WS304: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) and Sexuality Studies
WS492: Advanced Seminar in Women’s and Gender Studies

Film Studies:

FLM380: Classical Film and Media Theory
FLM381: Contemporary Film and Media Theory
FLM452: The ABCs of Feminist Francophone Cinema
FLM355: Melodrama and its Reinterpretations
FLM452: New Queer Cinema
ENG431C: Feminist Cinema as Counter Cinema


ENG353: Readings in Women Writers: Studies in Lyric
ENG484B: Stein and Her Legacy
ENG 491H/819: Americans in Paris (hybrid grad/undergrad)
ENG820/481: Digital Mapping and New Narrative (hybrid grad/undergrad; DH credit)
ENG819: The Novel Innovations of Proust & Stein
ENG886 & 491H: Space Theory and Postmodern Literature