James A. Steintrager is an assistant professor of comparative literature at the University of California at Irvine, where he specializes in eighteenth-century French, German, and English drama, aesthetics, and libertine fiction. His work to date has focused on notions of moral monstrosity and representations of cruelty within Enlightenment discourse and has been published in journals such as 18th Century Life and The 18th Century: Theory and Interpretation.
As a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, Steintrager will undertake a book-length project on pleasure as a social system. Concentrating on libertine, pornographic, and philosophical works from pre-Revolutionary France, his goal is to demonstrate the ways in which pleasure was separated from moral, ethical, and even aesthetic concerns. He also plans to show how this movement to grant pleasure an autonomous and perhaps socially foundational status in the eighteenth century is sociologically related to later attempts in psychoanalysis, philosophy, and popular culture to cast sexual freedom as the key to general liberation.
Steintrager received a BA in French and politics from Wake Forest University and a PhD in comparative literature from Columbia University. While at Columbia, he spent a year as a fellow at the École normale supérieure in Paris.