Doug Guerra

Associate Professor


319 Marano Campus Center


My website

Office hours

FALL 2019
Tuesday and Thursday
11:00-12:00 & 3:45-4:15
or by appointment



At SUNY Oswego, I teach courses in American literature, media theory, popular culture (especially games from the mid-nineteenth century through the twenty-first), and the relationships between technological innovation, aesthetic form, and social arrangement. My recent book, Slantwise Moves: Games, Literature, and Social Invention in the Nineteenth-Century United States (UPenn Press 2018), analyzes nineteenth-century games as materialized theories of action, using them to understand invisibilized and ephemeral pleasures that both structured and troubled what it meant to associate in the broader civic sphere. I have published articles in American Literature and ESQ, and my work has been supported by fellowships from the Brian Sutton-Smith Archives of Play at the Strong Museum, the American Antiquarian Society, Penn State's "First Book Institute," and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago, 2011
BA, University of Chicago, 2001

Classes taught


ENG 236/800 MWF 1:50-2:45 323 Marano CC
ENG 387/800 MWF 10:20-11:15 323 Marano CC

ENG 236 AMERICAN LITERATURE: CIVIL WAR - PRESENT: “The Real, the Utopian, and the Half-Real.” Often when we say something is utopian, we in fact mean, it is impractical, impossible, and (likely) unadvisable. In popular thought, the utopian is a fool—a foil for the practical thinker, the realist who will “tell it like it is.” Yet in the United States, a country deeply motivated by the “dreams” of its inhabitants, there has always been a productive tension between the dreamer and the realist—a tension reflected historically by the generic conventions of the Realist novel, on the one side, and the Romance or Utopian narrative on the other. By tracking foundational works that established these prevailing strains of literature in the United States—as well as experimental work existing between and complicating these poles—this course will examine the U.S. cultural imaginary from the end of the Civil War through the current moment. In addition to exploring these themes, this course will also strengthen students’ skills in close reading, argumentative writing, and analytical discussion. Readings will include works by Mark Twain, Henry James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, and Junot Díaz. 

ENG 387 VISION AND TEXTUALITY: Memes, metaphors, and media, oh my! In this course, we will work together to understand the relationships and antagonisms of two dominant fixtures of twenty-first-century life: images and words. We will begin in highly conceptual territory, considering how language and pictures convey social knowledge as well as how they obscure it. But we will anchor these reflections to popular platforms like Tumblr and popular literature like that of Edgar Allan Poe. Wait, Poe? As in “Quoth the Raven?” As in, like, 1845?

 Yes, that Poe.              

 We will double-back nearly two hundred years because the nineteenth century was, in many ways, the birthplace of our current congestion of vision and text—the beginning of mass media in the daily newspaper (1833), the advent of photography and daguerreotypes (1839), and the development of urban space as a venue of signage, stagecraft, and advertisement (with 1841 seeing the landmark opening of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum in NYC). In the first half of the semester, we will use a mixture of material from that moment and our own to gain a contrastive view of the particular problems circulating around “representation,” “vision,” and “aesthetics” in literature, self-making, and pictorial media. Just as an eye exam requires a constant pivoting of views to gain clarity (“This or this.”), we will toggle between the 1800s and the present to raise questions, develop our thinking, and begin the work of becoming sensitive cultural theorists. In the second half of the semester, we will use what we’ve learned to unpack the complex and apocalyptic social visions depicted in Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Toni Morrison’s Sula, and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.    


ENG 235/800 TR 2:20-3:40 211 Marano CC
ENG 362/800 TR 9:35-10:55 225 Marano CC
ENG 365/810 TR 12:45-2:05 225 Marano CC

ENG 235 AMER LIT/BEGIN-CIV WAR-“American Hauntings/Haunted Americans.” This course considers the formation of U.S. literature and culture by following a variety of major themes in the literary history of America, from its beginnings through the Civil War. These themes include both religious and secular attempts to represent a unique American mission and identity, a focus on individual reform and personal transcendence, and the issues that accompanied longstanding debates over the social role of women and non-whites in the era before the Civil War. Our journey through early American literature will be guided in part by images of haunting and the supernatural, as we look at a number of texts that use these figures to comment on forces within society that fall off of the grid of the supposedly “natural” order of things—the remainders of historical violence, bodies marginalized by their gender or race, and stories too dangerous to be told in the light of day.

In addition to exploring these themes, this course will also strengthen students’ skills in close reading, argumentative writing, and analytical discussion—while also providing a richer perspective on the history that informs the contemporary United States.

ENG 362 GENRE - HISTORY - THEORY-This course will introduce students to genre as a historical and social formation, analyzing the relationship between generic emergence and historical shifts in technologies of production and transmission as well as the economic conditions that lead to certain forms of publication and reading. It will serve as a primer in the history of the book and textual studies that will allow students to interrogate the material world of objects, economies, and bodies as it relates to the intellectual world of ideas, metaphor, and imagination.

ENG 365 JUNIOR SEMINAR: HERMAN MELVILLE-In this course we will analyze the modern idea of “author” in the United States as a social technology defined by a number of factors: the invention and improvement of mass-printing technologies such as lithography and the steam press, cultural fields defined by the aesthetic tastes of editors and audiences, the legal apparatus of copyright, and, of course, historical trends in literature and “literary” writing. Authorship in modern society entails much more than the romantic vision of a solitary mind toiling by the candlelight, more than simply putting pen to paper. And perhaps no author more fully reflects the triumphs and trials of this institution than the notoriously elusive, relentlessly complex, and ultimately rewarding Herman Melville. A darling of American audiences for his early sea-faring adventures Typeeand Omoo, he was financially ruined by his most enduring book, Moby-Dick. Tracking a representative cross-section of Melville’s work—along with touchstone critical essays, contemporary literature and reviews, and biographical back story—we will develop and complicate our ideas of “author,” while thinking along with one of the most celebrated and eviscerated minds that ever aspired to that role.