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Peter Starr Dean, College of Arts and Sciences Department of Literature

Additional Positions at AU
Professor of Literature
Degrees
PhD, The Johns Hopkins University, Comparative Literature, 1985; MA, The Johns Hopkins University, French, 1982; AB with Distinction, Stanford University, Humanities Special Programs, 1978

Bio
Peter Starr joined American University as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in July 2009. In this role, he is responsible for 324 full-time faculty in 17 departments, 1820 undergraduate majors, 979 graduate students and over 40% of all enrollments at AU. His primary goals for the College include recruiting and supporting a more research-active and diverse faculty, growing the College’s endowment, developing outstanding new curricula in a variety of fields, and building bridges to partner organizations in the District and around the globe.

Before coming to AU, Dean Starr was a professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California, where—except for a fellowship year at Harvard University—he had taught since 1985. In 2006-2007, he served as interim Dean of USC’s College of Letters, Arts, and Science, completing the College’s four year senior hiring initiative and raising a then-record amount toward the College’s $400M campaign goal.
See Also
We the Paranoid
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Executive Experience

  • Dean (interim), USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, 2006-2007.
  • Dean of Undergraduate Programs, USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, 2005-2006.
  • Academic Vice President, USC Academic Senate Executive Board (transitions to President; declined for deanship), 2005.
  • Acting Chair, USC Department of French & Italian, Fall 2002, Fall 2003.
  • President, USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences Faculty Council, 1998-1999.
  • Chair, USC Department of Comparative Literature, 1994-1997, 1998-2001.

Research Interests

Logics of Failed Revolt: French Theory After May '68 (Stanford UP, 1995) studies the strategically central role played by a constellation of commonplace 'explanations' for the necessary failure of revolutionary action within French theoretical discourse of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Commemorating Trauma: The Paris Commune and Its Cultural Aftermath (Fordham UP, 2006) shows how the enactment of confusion in novels, histories and films effectively parried the specific traumas of the so-called Terrible Year of 1870-1871. Starr recently completed version 1.0 of We the Paranoid, a web-based multimedia book examining the mutations of what Richard Hofstadter famously called the paranoid style in American culture of the past two decades.

Selected Publications

Books

  • We the Paranoid. Web-based multimedia project on the paranoid style in contemporary American culture; version 1.0 complete; see link at upper right.
  • Commemorating Trauma: The Paris Commune and Its Cultural Aftermath. Fordham University Press, 2006.
  • Logics of Failed Revolt: French Theory After May '68. Stanford University Press, 1995.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Center for Excellence in Teaching Faculty Fellow, USC, 2005-2008
  • Mellon Faculty Fellow, Harvard University, 1988-1989
  • N.E.H. Summer Stipend, 1988
  • French Government Grant, 1984-1985
  • Camargo Foundation Grant, 1984
  • Phi Beta Kappa, Stanford University, 1978

AU Expert

Area of Expertise

Paranoia and conspiracy theories in contemporary American culture; literary theory; psychoanalytic theory; French literature of the ninteenth century

Additional Information

Peter Starr is a renowned scholar in the fields of French literature and literary theory and an expert on paranoia and conspiracy theories in contemporary American culture. He recently completed version 1.0 of We the Paranoid, a Web-based multimedia "book" examining how and why conspiracy theories have developed and taken root in American culture during the past two decades. His best-known research examines how literary, theoretical, and filmic texts bear the traces of significant traumatic events in the cultures from which they spring. His book Logics of Failed Revolt: French Theory After May '68 (Stanford University Press, 1995) studies the strategically central role played by a constellation of commonplace "explanations" for the necessary failure of revolutionary action within French theoretical discourse of the late 1960s and early 1970s. A second book by Starr, Commemorating Trauma: The Paris Commune and Its Cultural Aftermath (Fordham University Press, 2006), shows how the enactment of confusion in novels, histories, and films effectively parried the specific traumas of the so-called Terrible Year of 1870-1871.

For the Media

To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

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