I am an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. I study and teach twentieth-century literature in English. My research interests include genre fiction, the sociology of literature, modernism, South Asian literature in English, and the digital humanities. I am the author of Fictions of Autonomy: Modernism from Wilde to de Man (Oxford University Press, 2013).

  • CV
  • github
  • twitter
  • mastodon
  • rss

I honor Labor Day the way Karl Marx intended, by finishing up my syllabuses. Since it’s September, it must be Early Twentieth-Century Fiction time. I am also teaching Introduction to Science Fiction for the first time. Will there be Star Trek? Of course there will be Star Trek. The links go to pages with abbreviated schedules, but the full syllabuses are available in PDF: Early 20th-c. and SF. The two syllabus formats are not automatically generated from the same source, because getting that right (for my definition of “right”) remains much harder than it should be, and I am trying to spend less time fiddling with computer-y stuff and more time peering into the unhallowed depths of genre-fiction history.


Manual pin: My article, “Origins of the US Genre-Fiction System, 1890–1856,” is just out in Book History. Read all about it.

I made an R package with some “cultural” datasets of various kinds that might be of pedagogical use. It is available on github as agoldst/dataculture. See the repository page for a summary of the datasets, which I used to teach introductory analyses of:

  1. cultural tastes over time and social space (names, music genres, recipes)
  2. textual/paratextual signs of fictional genre (text-mining science fiction and crime)
  3. historical and fictional social networks (Hamlet characters and eighteenth-century Bostonian troublemakers)

If that sounds interesting, take a look at the package and the lecture slides and lab exercises from the course I created it for, “Data and Culture” (Fall 2022). I’m hoping to save someone somewhere a few steps of wheel-reinventing.

Read more →

As a kind of closing ritual for the past semester, I made webpages for my spring 2023 courses. I put enough work into these two courses that it felt good to collect slides/notes and handouts, breaking them free from the prison of Canvas:

Also I wanted to supply the pedagogical context for two quixotic annotation projects I pursued this term: on Shahid’s Call Me Ishmael Tonight and Ngũgĩ’s Petals of Blood. There you have it. My teaching materials are of course available for anyone to reuse as they see fit. Of course future students should be alert to signs that these materials have been used to replace me with an “AI”-powered GoldstoneBot: dated pop-culture references or tired jokes would be especially clear signs that my human creativity has been replaced by a soulless mechanism.


This past semester I spent a good chunk of my Introduction to Crime Fiction course on Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s 1977 novel Petals of Blood. I wanted my students to spend time with a text where the guilty culprit really was capitalism. By happy coincidence we reached the end of the novel, with its heroic but tantalizingly inconclusive brewery strike, just as the Rutgers faculty/grad unions went on strike. That helped add an experiential dimension to my students’ encounter with a 46-year-old text. Neocolonialism hasn’t exactly gone away either.

It’s a fun and very compelling novel, but it did seem to me to ask for some contextualization. So, as I did when I was preparing Shahid’s ghazals for my other course, I ended up compiling quite a few annotations on Ngũgĩ’s references and non-English words. They’re below, after the jump.

Read more →

I have an article out in the new issue of Book History, modestly titled “Origins of the US Genre-Fiction System, 1890–1956.” By kind permission of the publisher I can also share the accepted manuscript version, which is both open access and richer in typographical errors.

_Publishers' Weekly_, January 25, 1941: 429.

Publishers’ Weekly, January 25, 1941: 429.

This is the first published piece of my current book project on the history of genre fiction. In the article I attempt to trace the formation of an institutionalized system of genre categories in American publishing. Here’s the abstract, with a few more reflections after the jump:

Though genre fiction is now ubiquitous, and though both book history and literary studies have devoted considerable attention to individual genres like science fiction and romance novels, the history of the system of popular fiction categories has been little studied. This essay traces the origins of the genre-fiction system in United States magazine and book publishing, bringing sociological and book-historical analysis to bear on changing practices of categorization in publishing, advertising, librarianship, and reader response from the 1890s through the 1950s. Genre categories were only intermittently in use through the 1910s; they were first institutionalized in pulp magazines in the 1920s and 1930s. The genre-fiction system was transmitted to book publishing only in the course of the so-called “paperback revolution” of the 1940s and 1950s, which made room for fiction-book production by categories while relegating it to a permanently low-status position. This transmission across publishing formats was far from deliberate; instead, the essay argues, the system of genre fiction arose and endured as a stable compromise articulating an expanded fiction-reading public to an expansive print culture industry, making new readers and new fiction—and new kinds of fiction—regularly available to each other in an enduringly hierarchized field.

Read more →