Joshua Lam

C625 Wells Hall
619 Red Cedar Rd
East Lansing, MI 48824


Assistant Professor
Literary Studies; Popular Culture; Race and Ethnic Studies


Joshua Lam’s primary research and teaching interests include modernism, African American literature, and twentieth-century and contemporary U.S. literature and culture. Additional interests include critical race theory, science and technology studies, theories of habit and attention, and popular culture (comedy, horror, SFF).

His first book project, Creatures of Habit: Race, Automation, and U.S. Modernism, explores how fears and fantasies about technological development in the early twentieth century were often articulated through the language of racial difference. Examining works by Pauline Hopkins, Gertrude Stein, Richard Wright, and Jean Toomer, among others, the project regards the figure of the human automaton as an index of how the rhetoric of race and technology became intertwined. From fears of becoming enslaved to technology, to condemnations of jazz as machine music, to medical beliefs that “primitive” peoples were not susceptible to “hysterical automatisms” caused by urban overstimulation, Creatures of Habit shows how the rhetoric of race was omnipresent in literary and popular discussions of technological modernity. Tracing a series of aesthetic innovations in African American literature that focus upon the figure of the racialized automaton, the project ultimately demonstrates how black writers in the U.S. used stereotypes of compulsive behavior to combat reigning ideologies of white supremacy in ways quite distinct from “uplift” movements and the politics of respectability.

He is also at work on a second project that seeks to explain the prevalence of minstrelsy and stereotype in contemporary innovative poetry by black writers in the U.S. Examining poetry by Douglas Kearney, Dawn Lundy Martin, and the Black Took Collective, among others, the project analyzes how these poets reduplicate stereotypes in order to scrutinize both formal and racial expectations, especially within the tradition of African American poetry. Rather than adopting the humanizing rhetoric of much conventional African American poetry, the project argues, these poets create innovative poetic forms that use the trope of the objectified black body to deconstruct linguistic processes of racial reification from within.

His scholarship has appeared in the Journal of Modern Literature, Callaloo, College Literature, and the Journal of Foreign Languages and Cultures, and is forthcoming in The Palgrave Handbook of Magical Realism in the Twenty-First Century and The Edinburgh Companion to Modernism and Technology.

Ph.D., University at Buffalo (State University of New York), 2013

M.A., University at Buffalo (State University of New York), 2009


Readings in Non-Fiction: U.S. Modernism (ENG 323)

Comedy: Dark Humor in U.S. Literature and Culture (ENG 320A)

Foundations of Literary Studies II: Literary Theory and Its Others (ENG 280)

Monsters in Literature and Film (IAH 207)

Fantasy in the Modern World (IAH 221C)

The Great American Road Trip in U.S. Literature and Culture (IAH 211C)

Readings in African American Literature: Speculative Fiction & Fantasy (ENG 350)

Film & Society: Horror-Comedy (ENG 130)

Race and American Modernism (ENG 814)


“Race: Fordism, Factories, and the Mechanical Reproduction of Racial Identity.” The Edinburgh Companion to Modernism and Technology, ed. Alex Goody and Ian Whittington. Under contract with Edinburgh University Press.

“Black Magic: Conjure, Syncretism, and Satire in Ishmael Reed.” The Palgrave Handbook to Magical Realism in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Richard Perez and Victoria A. Chevalier. Palgrave MacMillan, 2020, 297-329.

“Richard Wright’s ‘Basket of Deplorables’: The Return of the Lumpenproletariat in U.S. Political Discourse.” Journal of Foreign Languages and Cultures, vol. 2, no. 2, 2018, pp. 31-44.

“Black Objects: Animation and Objectification in Charles Chesnutt’s Conjure Tales.” College Literature: A Journal of Critical Literary Studies, vol. 45, no. 3, 2018, pp. 369- 98.

“Uncanny Compulsions: Automatism, Trauma, and Memory in Of One Blood.” Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters, vol. 39, no. 2, 2016, pp. 473-92. Winner of the 2021 Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins Society Scholar’s Award

“In the Wake of Disaster: Black Women’s Innovative Poetics.” Review essay of Letters to the Future: Black WOMEN / Radical WRITING, edited by Erica Hunt and Dawn Lundy Martin. boundary 2: an international journal of literature and culture (forthcoming).

“A Poetics of Thingification: Dawn Lundy Martin and the Black Took Collective.” boundary 2: an international journal of literature and culture, vol. 49, no. 4, 2022.

University News

Several College of Arts & Letters Projects Supported by HARP Grants
Published December 13, 2023 in College of Arts & Letters
A collage of photos of various different people in front of a collection of backgrounds.
Twelve College of Arts & Letters faculty members currently are working on projects supported by 2023 Humanities and Arts Research Program (HARP) Grants. The projects range from mixed media…Read now »
‘Situations’ Exhibit Is a Catalyst for Several Community Events
Published February 14, 2020 in College of Arts & Letters
man looking out of a car with the sunset reflected on his face
(PLEASE NOTE: In response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and in the interest of public safety, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum closed on March 14 and has…Read now »