John Plotz is a professor of English at Brandeis University who specializes in Victorian literature and the novel. He is the author of The Crowd: British Literature and Public Politics (University of California Press, 2000) and Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move (Princeton University Press, 2008), which was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. His current project is tentatively titled “Semi-Detached: The Aesthetics of Partial Absorption” and includes work on Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Hannah Arendt, George Eliot, Henry James, Erving Goffman, John Stuart Mill, William Morris, and Edmund Wilson.
“Semi-Detached” is about what it means to get partially drawn in to a work of art. In it, Plotz asks, When you’ve half lost yourself in a book, what happens to the half left behind? Artworks are like virtual worlds that allow their audiences to feel that they are simultaneously inside and outside of them—both in an art gallery looking at a painting, and somehow within the world that painting depicts. Plotz compares 19th-century ideas about the partial immersion produced by novels, poems, and panoramas to modern-day versions of world-blocking absorption: Second Life, online gaming, even texting and Facebook.
Plotz earned his PhD at Harvard University. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Humanities Center (2001–2002) and the Howard Foundation (2005–2006), and he recently received a Guggenheim Fellowship, which will run concurrently with his Radcliffe Institute fellowship. Plotz was a recipient of the Brandeis University Dean of Arts and Sciences Mentoring Award for 2006–2007.