Doug Guerra

Assistant Professor


319 Marano Campus Center


My website

Office hours

Spring 2018
Monday, Wednesday & Friday
11:30 - 12:30
or by appointment

Douglas Guerra

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 current book project, Slantwise Moves: Games, Literature, and Social Invention in the Nineteenth-Century United States, 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 and the American Antiquarian Society.


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

Classes taught


ENG 102/740 MWF 1:50-2:45 323 Marano CC
ENG 236/800 MWF 12:40-1:35 323 Marano CC
ENG 465/800 MWF 10:20-11:15 211 Park Hall

ENG 102 COMPOSITION II-Practice in college level writing, includes preparation of a research paper.

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 465 SEMINAR IN ADVANCED LITERARY STUDIES: CONFIDENCE/GAMES-“Confidence/Games.” One way to understand the emerging aesthetics of culture in the nineteenth-century United States is by conceiving of them as engaging with a fundamental crisis of confidence—a crisis that continues to have significant currency in the twenty-first century. As rural populations ventured into a society of strangers in the city, as social reform threatened/promised to change cultural traditions and politics, and as modern methods of marketing and sales emerged, authors and other producers of popular culture strove to create viable models of agency whereby the unfamiliar might be comfortably and confidently familiarized. Etymologically, the word “confidence,” often employed by these same producers, refers to a “together faith,” hearkening to the necessarily social grounds for this agency as it was conceived in this period.

What did this confidence entail? How was it achieved and how was it exploited? We’ll begin to get at this in this course by examining important works of literature that engage with the theme, in addition to more ephemeral cultural products that, contrary to the antisocial view sometimes taken of literature, explicitly engage with a kind of social contract between players—that is, games. By fleshing out the specific logic of mid-nineteenth-century games, and understanding the way interaction and agency were materially and procedurally figured in these objects of rule-bounded play, we’ll come to a closer understanding of how books also required and enabled similar modes of sociality and material engagement on the part of their readers. By using games as contemporary sources of both thematic and material concerns in the period, we will deeply explore the interface of agency and print-technology that facilitated (and troubled) confidence in an era of unprecedented change. Readings include Herman Melville’s The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s utopian satire The Blithedale Romance, George Thompson’s sensational and salaciousVenus in Boston, and Hannah Crafts’ recently uncovered The Bondwoman’s Narrative. A number of historical games, from billiards and collectible card decks to board games and early “Mad Libs”-like puzzles will also be examined.