• Sean Silver
  • Sean Silver
  • Associate Professor
  • Click for Personal Website
  • Curriculum_Vitae_Silver.pdf
  • Office: Murray Hall, Room 044, College Ave Campus
  • Office Hours:

    On Leave 2023-24

  • Primary Areas of Specialization: Literature and Science; Craft Knowledge; Critical Making; Complex Systems; Cognitive Studies; Material Culture; Museum Studies
  • Field of Interest: Book and Media History, Restoration & Eighteenth Century, Theory
  • About:

    I teach the literature and culture of the British Restoration and eighteenth century, with an eye towards the material affordances of things like books. Related interests include complex systems, the history of science, and the history of ideas, but especially craft practices, the history of books, and the making of things. I am the author of The Mind Is a Collection, which traces the history of our most prevalent mental models. The book is the exhibit catalogue of a virtual museum, www.mindisacollection.org, which argues that all our mental models are based on spaces in which we work, and things we do with our hands. I am now working on a book on the history of decorative papers, focusing especially on one page in Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy.  The project begins with an accurate reconstruction of the marbled page in Sterne's book-- the "motley emblem of my work," he calls it-- but expands through that reconstruction to tell the story of the emergence of the first maritime global empire.  Some discussion of the project is at www.motleyemblem.org.

    So much of our life is virtual.  Reading a book shouldn't be.  I'm committed to making literature present in all sorts of ways, including by making it-- from dyes, inks, and pigments, to paper, printed pages, and bound books.  Part of that commitment is in a course I lead on critical making; part is in the letterpress studio.  Reach out if you'd like to discuss more.

  • Book(s):
  • Biography:

    For ten years, I taught courses in literature, critical making, and the digital humanities at the University of Michigan; for the past five, I have been at Rutgers, so: from one Big 10 school to another.  Before joining the academy, I was what they call a “joiner,” a maker of cabinets and other furniture.  My last project was The Mind is a Collection, a born-digital museum of eighteenth-century cognitive models.  My current project, the Motley Emblem, combines my interests in artisanal craft and eighteenth-century literary history in a different way, recovering the global-sized practices embedded in one, vanishingly small instance of an art.


  • Other Publications:

    "Sentiment Analysis and the Sentimental Novel: A Literary Approach to Computational Criticism."  With Andrew Franta. Critical Inquiry (2024).

    "Fielding's Prepositions: Historiography and the Novel." ELH (2023).

    "Hogarth's Networks and the 18th-century 'Graphic' Novel." Novel (2023).

    "Literature and Philosophy." Eron and Kaul, eds., The Routledge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Literature. Routledge (2023).

    "Gilbert Ryle's Jane Austen: Character, Concept, and Thick Description."  Studies in the Novel (2022).

    “The Emergence of Texture.”  Journal of the History of Ideas 81.2 (2020): 169-94.

    “Satirical Objects.” Oxford History of Eighteenth-Century Satire. Edited by Paddy Bullard. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2019).

    “Information and Irony.” Early Modern British Literature in Transition, 1660-1714. Edited by Elizabeth Sauer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2018).

    “What Do We Mean by ‘Material’?” Afterword to Material Fictions, a special double issue of Eighteenth-Century Fiction, ed. Eugenia Zuroski-Jenkins and Michael Yonan (2018).

    “Making Weather: Communication Networks and the Great Storm of 1703.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction (2018).

    “Practice and Production.” The Cultural History of Hair: The Age of Empire. Edited by Joseph Roach and Margaret Powell. London: Bloomsbury (2018).

    “Contingency in Philosophy and History: 1650-1800.” Textual Practice 32.3 (2018): 419-36. "The Material of Material History: John Evelyn and Numismata," Word and Image, 2015. "Hooke, Latour, and the History of Extended Cognition," Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 2016. "The Prehistory of Serendipity: Bacon to Walpole," Isis, 2015 "Pale Fire and Johnson's Cat: The Anecdote in Polite Conversation," Criticism, 2011. "The Rape of the Lock and the Origins of Game Theory," Connotations, 2011. "Visiting Strawberry Hill: Horace Walpole's Gothic Historiography," Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 2009. "Locke's Pineapple and the History of Taste," Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 2008.

  • Education: University of California, Los Angeles – Ph.D. in English Literature, August 2008 Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA – B.A. in Literature, May 1994