Alex Brostoff joined the Kenyon faculty in 2022 and is an interdisciplinary scholar, translator and assistant professor of English. Their research and pedagogy converge at the crossroads of critical theory and queer and transfeminist cultural production in twentieth and twenty-first century hemispheric American studies. Alex's current book project, "Feral Renewals," reframes autotheory as a subset of a transnational turn toward marginalized modes of theorizing. From a Third World Feminist "theory in the flesh" to Argentinian cultural criticism's "theory of the night," and from Brazilian marginal poetry's "body in heteronyms" to trans aesthetics in translation, this comparative study charts a timely new politics of intertextual collectivity, recasting transnational structures of solidarity from the hemispheric margins.
They are the editor of a special issue of ASAP/Journal on autotheory (2021) with Lauren Fournier and editor of the volume "Autotheories: Transdisciplinary Experiments in Self-Theorizing" (The MIT Press, 2025) with Vilashini Cooppan. They have also translated a range of works from Portuguese and Spanish, including two books by Indigenous leader Ailton Krenak: "Life is Not Useful" (Polity Press, 2023) and "Ancestral Future" (Polity Press, 2024) in collaboration with Jamille Pinheiro Dias. Their scholarship, translations and public writing have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Critical Times, Representations, Dibur, Synthesis, Assay, and Hyperallergic, as well as in several edited collections and at the MoMA. They are currently editing a special issue of College Literature: A Journal of Critical Literary Studies on trans literatures with RL Goldberg.
Alex's work has been supported by the Professor Norman Jacobson Memorial Fellowship at the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities (2020-2021) and the Andrew W. Mellon-funded Cal Performances Grant (2015, 2017). They were honored to receive UC Berkeley's Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer Essay Prize (2021) and Kenyon's LGBTQ+ Faculty/Staff Advocate Award (2023).
Areas of Expertise
20th and 21st century hemispheric American studies; comparative literature; queer & transfeminist cultural production; critical theory; cultural studies; translation studies; autotheory
2021 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ. of California Berkeley
2013 — Master of Arts from University of Alabama
2009 — Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College
Courses Recently Taught
Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of the department chair. Offered every year.
Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of the department chair. Offered every year.
What is “the literary,” and how can it be studied? How do distinct methods of reading impact the ways a text is understood to produce meaning and knowledge? What are the conditions and limits of such methods? This course investigates encounters between the literary and theory. As we compare how theorists have approached “the literary” across time and place, so too we press up against what constitutes “theory” and according to whom. Is there something literary about theory itself? By surveying major innovations and interventions in literary theory over the past century, we trace the political histories of reading as a practice of imagining the world otherwise, all the while interrogating ideology and injustice, identity and alterity, ethics and aesthetics, representation and relationality. We study the craft of critical inquiry while considering how literary and theoretical texts may resist and recast the very questions we ask. Our aim is dialogic exchange; in other words, beyond applying a given approach to a given text, we seek to surmise how literature and theory challenge and contest each other in practice. We may encounter works of Marxism, structuralism and poststructuralism, post- and anti-colonialism, queer and transfeminisms, critical race theory, abolition, affect theory, psychoanalysis and critical pedagogy alongside an array of literary works. The theoretical focus of this course may vary; for more information, students should contact the instructor. This counts toward the methods requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. \n
This course serves as an introduction to the literature and film produced by and about U.S. Latinos and Latinas, and to the theoretical approaches, such as borderlands theory, which have arisen from the lived experience of this diverse group. By focusing on the Latino/a experience and situating it squarely within an American literary tradition, the course examines the intersections of national origin or ancestry with other identity markers such as gender, race and sexuality. We take an interdisciplinary approach that seeks to connect literature and film with history, political science, psychology, art, sociology and so on. Thus, students read not only literary works, both visual and written, but also related works in other disciplines that speak to the issues raised by the texts. Specifically, the course critically explores the effects and literary expressions of internal and external migration, displacement and belonging, nation and citizenship, code-switching and other ways in which Latinos and Latinas have made sense of their experiences in the United States. Beginning with 16th-century accounts by Spaniards in areas that would eventually become part of the United States and moving to the present day, the class familiarizes students with the culture(s) of a group that plays an important role in our national narrative, and with the issues that this group grapples with on our national stage. This counts toward the post-1900 and diversity requirements for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Only open to first-year and sophomore students.
Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Only open to first-year and sophomore students.
“If queer theory was born of the union of sexuality studies and feminism,” writes trans activist and historian Susan Stryker, “transgender studies can be considered queer theory’s evil twin: It has the same parentage but willfully disrupts the privileged family narratives that favor sexual identity labels (like gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual) over the gender categories (like man and woman) that enable desire to take shape and find its aim.” Disrupt gender categories, Stryker suggests, and you disrupt desire. Disrupt desire, and you unsettle the sexual-identity politics that mobilized a movement. Disrupt those politics, and you rewrite kinship narratives that shape how gender and sexuality are embodied and understood. \nThough they can share critical positions on the compulsory organization of gender, sexuality and kinship, “queer” and “trans” remain as multiple and as intersectional as the bodies and politics to which they may refer. What makes a work of art or literature queer or trans? How do trans and queer collide and collude in naming identities and histories? What’s trans about queer? What’s queer about trans? This course stages encounters between queer and trans genealogies and methodologies in works of poetry and prose, performance and film, autobiography and autotheory. We delve into debates that have emerged at the intersections of gender and sexuality studies, queer and trans of color critique, transnational feminisms and beyond. From the dazzle of early queer theory to the disgrace of its disciplinary exclusions, and from the partial institutionalization to the decolonization of trans studies, our course materials draw on the resources of academia and activism as we travel across contexts and continents.\nWe encounter works by José Esteban Muñoz, Cáel Keegan, Counterpoints, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Paul Preciado, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Maggie Nelson, C. Riley Snorton, Susan Stryker, Judith Butler, Marcia Ochoa and Torrey Peters, among others. Students contribute to guiding our discussion with a group presentation, craft a creative project and write an essay combining close reading and research. The counts toward the post-1900 and diversity requirement for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291.
At once setting and subject, geopolitical region and aesthetic construct, the Americas have captivated cultural imaginations across the globe. And yet, the descriptor "American" suggests a singularity that disregards a continental expanse mapped across the hemisphere, ranging across local contexts from the Southern Cone to the Caribbean to North America and beyond. How have the Americas been constructed and contested by writing and rewriting over history and across borders? What role do (inter)textuality, performance and translation play in transnational and postcolonial approaches to hemispheric histories of colonization and slavery? How do markers of race, ethnicity, class and gender bear on experiences and representations of immigration, displacement and belonging? These are but a few of the questions we address as we trace movements across borders and centuries. Drawing on the intersections between studies of U.S. Latinx and Latin American literatures, postcoloniality, diaspora and translation, we investigate how varying geopolitics and genres construct and contest the hemispheric imaginaries that encompass and exceed the Americas. Although all texts are provided in translation, a working knowledge of Spanish is helpful for approaching course content. This counts toward diversity and post-1900 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 210-291 or junior standing.
Individual study in English is a privilege reserved for senior majors who want to pursue a course of reading or complete a writing project on a topic not regularly offered in the curriculum. Because individual study is one option in a rich and varied English curriculum, it is intended to supplement, not take the place of, coursework, and it cannot normally be used to fulfill requirements for the major. An IS earns the student 0.5 units of credit, although in special cases it may be designed to earn 0.25 units. To qualify to enroll in an individual study, a student must identify a member of the English department willing to direct the project. In consultation with that faculty member, the student must write a one- to two-page proposal that the department chair must approve before the IS can go forward. The chair’s approval is required to ensure that no single faculty member becomes overburdened by directing too many IS courses. In the proposal, the student should provide a preliminary bibliography (and/or set of specific problems, goals and tasks) for the course, outline a specific schedule of reading and/or writing assignments, and describe in some detail the methods of assessment (e.g., a short story to be submitted for evaluation biweekly; a 30-page research paper submitted at course’s end, with rough drafts due at given intervals). Students should also briefly describe any prior coursework that particularly qualifies them for their proposed individual studies. The department expects IS students to meet regularly with their instructors for at least one hour per week, or the equivalent, at the discretion of the instructor. The amount of work submitted for a grade in an IS should approximate at least that required, on average, in 400-level English courses. In the case of group individual studies, a single proposal may be submitted, assuming that all group members follow the same protocols. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of their proposed individual study well in advance, preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval.