Ellen McCallum


C624 Wells Hall
619 Red Cedar Rd
East Lansing, MI 48824

FacultyEnglishFilm Studies

Literary Studies; Film and Media Studies; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Global and Diasporic Studies


Ellen McCallum’s teaching and research range across feminist and queer theory, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, aesthetics, American literature, and film studies. Her most recent monograph, Unmaking The Making of Americans: Toward an Aesthetic Ontology, takes up questions of aesthetic relation, reading practice, form, temporality, emotion, and narrative, engaging them through Stein’s monumental novel The Making of Americans (SUNY 2018).  A recent essay in the MLA’s volume Approaches to Teaching Gertrude Stein argues for the usefulness—necessity, even—of teaching Stein’s intimidatingly long novel.

Co-edited volumes include After Queer Studies: Literature, Theory, and Sexuality in the 21st Century (Cambridge 2019), with Tyler Bradway, as well as The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature (2013) and Queer Times, Queer Becomings (SUNY2011), both coedited with Mikko Tuhkanen. 

McCallum’s first book, Object Lessons: How to Do Things with Fetishism, reclaimed perversion as a productive paradigm for feminist theory. Through a close reading in the passages in Freud’s work where fetishism appears, McCallum shows how fetishism undermines the precarious binaries of masculinity/femininity or perverse /normal or heterosexual/homosexual and that fetishism’s disruption even troubles the subject/object binary that founds Western metaphysics. Fetishism’s ability to produce a multiplicity of sexual differences and to negotiate loss through a generative practice of substitution and interpretation holds valuable object lessons for postmodern feminist theory.

Recent essays have investigated the animate spaces of Antonioni’s road films (Quarterly Review of Film and Video), 21st-century melodrama from women directors (camera obscura); the aesthetic subject in Proust, Bersani, and Sade (Leo Bersani: Queer Theory and Beyond); and defined the queer modern gothic (Cambridge Companion to the Modern Gothic). 

An earlier series of essays have investigated transmedial forms on the boundary between the verbal and the visual. One such essay on Anne Carson’s novel in verse, Autobiography of Red, reconsiders classic photography theory in light of the tensions around that book’s verbal photographs (postmodern culture). Another essay explores how montage in Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera helps us teach Faulkner’s As I Lay DyingA third examines telephonicity and the formation of the informational subject in Gaddis’s JR.

McCallum teaches core courses ranging from the fundamentals of literary and critical theory for undergraduate or graduate students, to film and media theory. In addition, McCallum offers courses in feminist and queer film, women’s experimental writing in the tradition of Dickinson and Stein, and LGBTQ studies. McCallum’s most recent graduate seminars have focused on queer and feminist forms for reading as well as digital mapping and new narrative.



Does Language Speak Us?

Reading, Writing, and Form

On Representation (hybrid grad/undergrad ENG481/802)

Reading Psychoanalysis for Reading

ENG355: Literature and Sexuality: A World of LGBTQ Literature

ENG482: Feminist Criticism: Freud and Feminism

ENG819: Queer Theory: What to Do with Bodies and Pleasures

ENG820: Sade and Feminism

ENG820: Reading Feminist Reading Queer Reading

ENG886: About Time—Feminism and Queer Theory

WS304: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) and Sexuality Studies

WS492: Advanced Seminar in Women’s and Gender Studies

FLM380: Classical Film and Media Theory

FLM381: Contemporary Film and Media Theory

FLM452: The ABCs of Feminist Francophone Cinema

FLM355: Melodrama and its Reinterpretations

FLM452: New Queer Cinema

ENG431C: Feminist Cinema as Counter Cinema

ENG353: Readings in Women Writers: Studies in Lyric

ENG484B: Stein and Her Legacy

ENG 491H/819: Americans in Paris (hybrid grad/undergrad)

ENG820/481: Digital Mapping and New Narrative (hybrid grad/undergrad; DH credit)

ENG819: The Novel Innovations of Proust & Stein

ENG886 & 491H: Space Theory and Postmodern Literature

University News

Jyotsna Singh Leaves Lasting Legacy at MSU and Will Deliver Legacy Lecture on April 17
Published March 28, 2024 in College of Arts & Letters
As the 2023-2024 recipient of the College of Arts & Letters’ Legacy Lecture Award, Jyotsna Singh, who recently retired from the Department of English at Michigan State University, will deliver…Read now »
Department of English Honors Two Students with Outstanding Senior Awards
Published May 5, 2023 in College of Arts & Letters
Two picutes side by side: on the left a woman with long black hair and a leather jacket; on the right a woman with long black hair, glasses, and a green shirt.
Two Department of English students were selected to receive the department’s 2023 Outstanding Senior Awards. Sponsored by the Dianna S. Cavett Endowment for English Literature, this…Read now »
Department of English Faculty Recognized with Several Awards and Professional Recognitions
Published January 9, 2023 in College of Arts & Letters
The Department of English at Michigan State University is home to a myriad of talented faculty members actively engaged in research and creative activity with several of these scholars and artists…Read now »
Faculty Voice: Understanding Identity in Learning
Published September 30, 2022 in College of Arts & Letters
Close-up photo of a person wearing glasses outdoors.
In this Faculty Voice, Ellen McCallum, a Professor in the Department of English and Faculty Fellow at the Center for Gender in Global Context (GenCen), shares…Read now »
Professor’s Book Among Most Outstanding Academic Titles of 2019
Published February 7, 2020 in College of Arts & Letters
Woman with short gray hair and black rimmed glasses
A book co-edited by Department of English Professor Ellen McCallum is among the select few chosen as a “2019 Outstanding Academic Title” by Choice magazine, a monthly…Read now »
2017 Alumni Board Faculty & Student Awards
Published April 3, 2017 in College of Arts & Letters
Linton Hall
In recognition of their outstanding achievements in leadership, teaching, innovation, and community engagement, five deserving individuals were presented with CAL Alumni Board Awards at the…Read now »