Berkeley English Graduate Students

Jason de Stefano

Jason de Stefano

Mabelle McLeod Lewis Memorial Fund Fellow, 2018–2019

Selected Publications and Papers Delivered


"The Birth of Creativity: Emerson's Creative Impulse," MLQ 80, no. 2 (June 2019): 167–193.

"Persona Ficta: Frederick Douglass," ELH 85, no. 3 (fall 2018): 775–800.

From Objectivity to the Scientific Self: A Conversation with Peter Galison,” Qui Parle 23, no. 2 (spring/summer 2015): 89–114.

"Biltong," Fence 34 (spring 2018): 30–32.

Selected Presentations

"The Birth of Creativity: Affinities of an Impulse," invited contribution to "Material Affinities" seminar at the ACLA Annual Meeting, Georgetown University, 8–10 March 2019.

"Melville's Weird Feelings," presented in "Melville's Quarrel with Modernity," Melville Society Panel at the MLA Annual Conference, Chicago, 4 Jan. 2019.

"Creature," Keywords for C19 Environmental Humanities Seminar, C19 Annual Conference of the Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, UNM, Albuquerque, 22–25 March 2018.

"The Work of Prophecy in the Age of Mechanical Philosophy: Evidence, Empiricism, and Cotton Mather's Biblia Americana," presented at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture Annual Conference, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass. 23-26 June 2016.

"The Matter of Anne Bradstreet's Melancholy," presented at "Object Emotions: Polemics," Cambridge University, 15-16 April 2016.

“Reading Painting: Toward an Art History of the Book” [on Henry James and the trompe l'oeil paintings of William Hartnett and Francis Peto], presented at “Reading Matters,” Friends of English Southland Graduate Conference, UCLA, 27 June 2014.

“Big Historicism, Weird Realism” [on deep history in Wai Chee Dimock, Mark McGurl, Graham Harman, and The Twilight Zone], invited presentation at the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory’s Material Cultures Reading Group, 1 Feb. 2013.

Current Research

My dissertation, “Creatures of Art: The Laws of Creativity in the Nineteenth Century,” traces the history and theory of creativity from its theological origins to its modern apotheosis as a defining trait of human being and flourishing. Reclaimed from early modern natural religion, where it denoted the deity’s providential design, creativity became a natural capacity of humans reconceived as not just God’s “creatures” but creators in their own right—even creatures of their own making. The creature (literally “a product of creative action”) was remade as a conceptual resource for writers seeking to understand the formal and formative laws of creativity. No longer a figure of abjection and dependence on a transcendent Creator, yet neither the hero of a secular humanist transcendence, the creature was recovered as an agent of immanent world-making through empowering reciprocity: what John Dewey, speaking of the “live creature” that animates his philosophy of art, called “the intimate union of doing and undergoing.” Insisting that the cultivation of creativity depended on recognizing humanity’s creaturely condition—its temporal and earthly finitude, material and social interdependence, and affinity with other living forms—writers from Mary Shelley to W. E. B. Du Bois recast the human as a “creature of” formative process and context: a creature of law, of circumstance, of impulse, of the world, and above all, of art. In so doing, they argued that art is neither an inert reflection of the world nor an illusion without foundation in reality but the only foundation left to a community of creatures invested in creating the world in their own image.

Recent English Courses Taught