English Department Chair Examines Criminality in New Book

March 30, 2023

Dr. Stephen Brauer, associate professor and chair of the Department of English, has released a book titled Criminality and the Modern: Contingency and Agency in Twentieth-Century America.

Stephen Brauer

Neither criminality nor modernism are new concepts for Brauer. He has been a member of the Fisher faculty since 1999, teaching courses focused on 20th century American culture and literature, as well Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. Besides Criminality and the Modern, he has also written articles for American Literature, American Quarterly, American Studies Journal, The Fitzgerald Review, among other journals.

Within the book, Brauer examines how the emergence of the social sciences in the 19th century influenced academics, researchers, and the general public in their thoughts and discussion surrounding criminal behavior. Brauer focuses on the concepts of contingency and agency to explore the figure of the criminal and American 20th century culture.

Brauer began working on the book in 2019, after being approached by a publisher. His interest in researching the topic of criminality was originally sparked while completing his doctoral dissertation at New York University. “The things that we define as outside the lines of propriety are the very things that therefore also define what we believe is acceptable,” he said. “The figure of the criminal, then, is an incredibly useful figure to study as a way to understand ourselves and what we value.”

Working through the pandemic and a major surgery, he submitted a complete manuscript in summer 2021, before finishing and publishing the text in January 2022. Brauer discussed his process in writing, mentioning the hardships of writing during a global pandemic and with his own personal trials. “It was a challenge the whole way through – from the proposal to the final editing. But it was always deeply rewarding on intellectual and emotional levels and it felt wonderful to hold the book in my hands when it was finally published!”

This article was written by Tyler Cole ’23, a cybersecurity major and PR Writing Intern in the Office of Marketing and Communications.