• Alexandra Chasin

    Associate Professor of Literary Studies


    I write nonfiction because I can’t get over the world.  The world is abundant, hideous and beautiful; people are monstrous, creative and kind; history is already infinite, between what is known and unknown.  There is more suffering than there should be, and humans are too often the authors of it.  There’s violence, environmental degradation, disease, hunger, and homelessness, but also, bones lying for thousands of years in Vietnam, Iraq, and Florida indicate that prehistoric people cared for their sick and disabled community members.  And there’s such a thing as music.  I am still processing reality.

    Having trained as a scholar of 20th century and contemporary U.S. culture, I am particularly interested in:  popular culture; sex, race, class, and identity; institutional power; cultural reproduction; art and the exercise of aesthetic judgment; and radical investigations into disciplinary and disciplined knowledge.  Having trained as a fiction writer, I am particularly interested in prose forms; genre; language; repetition; sound; the limits of sense; white space; repetition; and fragments.

    So I write nonfiction with an acute awareness of form.

    Degrees Held:

    MFA, Fiction Writing, Vermont College 2002
    PhD, Modern Thought and Literature, Stanford University, 1993
    BA, European Cultural Studies, Brandeis University, 1984

    Professional Affiliations:

    Director, Writing On It All, a public/participatory writing project that takes place on Governors Island every June.


    Recent Publications:

    Assassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslinger's War on Drugs
        University of Chicago Press, 2016
    Brief. Jaded Ibis Press, 2012 [app/novel]
    Kissed By. Fiction Collective 2, 2007
    Selling Out: The Lesbian and Gay Movement Goes to Market. St. Martin's, 2000

    Please see for more information

    Research Interests:

    Experimental fiction; elements of form; writing from and about history; gender, race, sexuality studies; popular culture; genre; the social practices of literature; book arts

    Awards And Honors:

    • 2016 New York Foundation for the Arts, for Writing On It All
    • 2013-14 Fellow, Leon Levy Center for Biography, CUNY
    • 2012 New York Fundation for the Arts, Fiction Fellowship
    • 2012 MacDowell, Residency
    • 2011 Yaddo, Residency

    Current Courses:

    Ind Senior Project

    Ind Senior Project (Spring 2020)

    Independent Study

    Independent Study (Spring 2020)

    The Social Life of Books (Spring 2020)