Timothy Melley

Tim Melley
Professor of English and Affiliate of American Studies
Director of the Miami University Humanities Center

260B Bachelor Hall
Oxford Campus


  • PhD, English and American Literature, Cornell, 1995
  • MFA, Fiction, Cornell, 1993
  • MA, English and American Literature, Cornell, 1993
  • MA, English, University of Cambridge, 1989
  • BA, Biology and English, Amherst College, 1985

Teaching Interests

  • U.S. literature and culture, especially after 1900
  • Literary, cultural, and political theory
  • Fiction writing

Research Interests

  • U.S. literary and cultural history since 1950
  • The Cold War and the "War on Terror"
  • Modernism and postmodernism
  • Security and secrecy in democratic society

Selected Publications


  • The Covert Sphere: Secrecy, Fiction, and the National Security State. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012.
  • Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000.


  • “The Melodramatic Style in American Politics, and Other Modes of Narrative Suspicion.” Forthcoming in Symploke.
  • “Security’s Fictions.” The Cultural Turn in Intelligence Studies. Ed. S. D. Willmetts. Washington: Georgetown University Press. Forthcoming 2022.
  • “Conspiracy, Theory, and the (Secret) Work of the State.” Conspiracy / Theory. Ed. Lisa Wedeen and Joseph Masco. Chicago: U of Chicago P, forthcoming. 8738 words.
  • “Bipolar Citizenship: Security State Allegory from the ‘War on Terror’ to the Obama Era.” Threat Communication and the US order after 9/11: Medial Reflections. Ed. Vanessa Ossa, David Scheu, and Lukas R. A. Wilde. London and New York: Routledge, 2021. 102-122.
  • “War After War: Narrating State Violence in an Age of Security,” English Language and Literature 66.2 (2020): 217-231.
  • "The Public Sphere Hero: Representations of Whistleblowing in U.S. Culture." Whistleblowing Nation: The History of National Security Disclosures and the Cult of State Secrecy. Ed. Kaeten Mistry and Hannah Gurman.  New York: Columbia UP, 2020. 213-242.
  • "Security." Critical Terms in Futures Studies. Ed. Heike Paul. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan: 2019: 267-272.
  • "War on Terror." American Literature in Transition, 2000-2010. Ed. Rachel Greenwald Smith. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2017. 275-290. 
  • "Public Secrecy and the Democratic Security State." Perspectives on Europe 45.1 (Fall 2015): 12-19.
  • "Security, Secrecy, and the Liberal Imaginary," Telos 170 (special issue on Security and Liberalism, ed. Johannes Voeltz), (Spring 2015): 149-67.
  • "Zero Dark Democracy." Narrating 9/11: Fantasies of State, Security, and Terrorism. Ed. John N. Duvall and Robert P. Marzec. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. 17-39.
  • "Covert Spectacles and the Contradictions of the Democratic Security State," Storyworlds 6.1 (special issue on Cultural Narratives, ed. David Shumway), (Summer 2014): 61-82.
  • "Imagining Social Influence: The Cultural Work of Suspicion in the Postwar United States." DialogiRevua za Kulturo in Druzbo. (Dialogues: Revue of Culture and Society). 3-4 (2011): 90-103. Simultaneously printed as "Predstavljati si družbene vplive: kulturne študije o sumničavosti v povojnih Združenih državah." Trans. to Slovenian by Boris Vezjak, 95-106.
  • "Brain Warfare: The Covert Sphere, Terrorism, and the Legacy of Cold War."Grey Room 45 (Fall 2011): 18-39.
  • "Paranoid Modernity and the Diagnostics of Cultural Theory."Electronic Book Review (2008). Review essay. 7,300 words.
  • "Brainwashed!: Conspiracy Theory and Ideology in the Cold War United States." New German Critique 103, vol. 35.1 (Spring 2008): 145-164.
  • "Technology, Technique, Techne: Teaching White Noise." Approaches to Teaching Don DeLillo's White Noise. Ed. Timothy Engles. New York: Modern Language Association, 2005: 73-83.
  • "Postmodern Amnesia." Contemporary Literature 44.1 (2003): 106-131.
  • "Modern Nervousness: George Beard, Henry Adams, and the Symptoms of Historical Change." Arizona Quarterly 59.1 (2003): 59-86.
  • "A Terminal Case: William Burroughs and the Logic of Addiction." High Anxieties: Cultural Studies in Addiction. Ed. Marc Redfield and Janet Farrell Brodie. Berkeley University of California Press, 2002: 38-60.
  • "Agency Panic and the Culture of Conspiracy." Conspiracy Nation: The Politics of Paranoia in Postwar America. Ed. Peter Knight. New York: New York University Press, 2001. 57-81.
  • "'Stalked by Love': 'Female Paranoia' and the Stalker Novel." differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 8.2 (1996): 68-100.
  • "Bodies Incorporated: Scenes of Agency Panic in Gravity's Rainbow." Contemporary Literature 35.4 (1994): 709-738.
  • "Performing Experiments: Materiality and Rhetoric in Thoreau's Walden." ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance 39.4 (1993): 252-277.


  • "Overflow." The Sun 429 (September 2011): 24-30.
  • "The Prince of Natick." Story Quarterly 40 (2004): 95-125. Nominated by SQ for Best American Nonrequired Reading.
  • "Behold." The Sun 342 (June 2004): 42-44. Nominated by Sun for Pushcart Prize. Reprinted in "Favorites from the Archives." Presented on "As the Story Goes," Kootenay Co-Op Radio, British Columbia (July 28, 2005).
  • "Sneaker in the Dark." Epoch 50.3 (2001): 298-314.
  • "Outlaws." Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Prose 28 (Winter 1998): 14-29.
  • "Staring into the Sun." The Threepenny Review 68 (Winter 1997): 16-17.
  • "Going to the Elephant." The Mississippi Review Prize Issue 23.1-2 (1994): 26-51.
  • "My Crap Life." The Sun 224 (August 1994): 12-15. Presented on "This American Life," Public Radio International, (November 15, 1997). Nominated by Sun for Pushcart Prize.

Invited Lectures

  • "Rethinking the Paranoid Style in American Politics." (Invited lecture, Society for Critical Exchange Institute, Stockholm University, Sweden, June 22, 2021).
  • "Brainwashed! How a Myth about Human Programming Changed History." (Freedom Project, Reconnect Today Institute, Santa Fe Women's Club, New Mexico), July 10, 2021
  • "War After War: State Allegory in an Age of Security." (Invited plenary lecture, English Language Association of Korea, Daejeon, South Korea, December 17, 2019).
  • "Global Perspectives on War." (Invited international roundtable, English Language Association of Korea, Daejeon, South Korea, 2019).
  • "Against the Future: The Cultural Logic of Security Society." (Invited lecture, Seoul National University, South Korea, December 13, 2019).
  • "Homeland Security Sublime."  (Invited lecture, Bayerische Amerika-Akademie Summer Graduate Program, Nürnberg Germany, May 27, 2019).
  • "Allegories of Citizenship in the US ‘War on Terror.'" (Invited lecture, University of Tübingen, Germany. September 21, 2018).
  • "Allegories of Citizenship in the "War on Terror," (University of Tübingen, Germany, September 21, 2018).
  • "The Melodramatic Mode in American Politics," (University of Manchester, England, June 28, 2018).
  • "Security's Futures," (Friedrich- Alexander-Universität, Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, February 8, 2018).
  • "The Birth of the Public Sphere Hero," (Workshop, New York University, January 18-19, 2018).
  • "Conspiracy, Theory, and the Secret Work of the State," (University of Chicago, 3CT Conspiracy/Theory Project, October 2017).
  • "What Kind of Symptom is Conspiracy Theory?" (University of Tübingen, Germany, August 3, 2017).
  • "Spectacular Plots: Conspiracy Discourse and the Public Sphere," (University of Tübingen, Germany, July 30, 2017).
  • "Conspiracy Narrative and the Epistemology of Security Society," (University of Chicago, Conspiracy/Theory Project, November 10, 2016).
  • "Security's Fictions," (Keynote, Canadian American Studies Conference, New Brunswick, October 21, 2016).
  • "The Risk Imaginary," (University of Surrey, England, June 2016).
  • "Security State Allegory," (University of Kentucky, April 4, 2016).
  • "The Problem of Belonging in a Democratic Security State," (University of Arizona, November 2015).
  • "The Work of Literature in a Democratic Security State," (Keynote, Dayton Literary Peace Prize Conference, Dayton, Ohio, October , 2015).
  • "‘The Worst That Could Happen': Catastrophe Culture in an Age of Security," (Uppsala University, Stockholm, Sweden, August 22, 2015).
  • "The Democratic Security State," (Kings College London, England, May 15, 2015).
  • "Public Secrets and the Rise of the U.S. Security State," (Havighurst Center Colloquium Lecture, Miami University, October 27, 2014).
  • "Cultural Symptoms: Psychology, Sociology, and the Study of Narrative," (Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, January 11, 2013).
  • "Public Secrets: How Fiction Shaped the War on Terror," (Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, January 9, 2013).
  • "Terrorism, Mind Control, and the Legacy of the Cold War," (Columbia University, New York Consortium for Intellectual and Cultural History, March 5, 2010).
  • "The Covert Sphere: Terrorism, Fiction and the National Security State," (Keynote, Norwegian American and Canadian Studies Association Conference, Kristiansand, Norway, October 16, 2009).
  • "Representing the Covert Sphere," (Duke University, October 17, 2008).
  • "Brainwashed!: Conspiracy Theory and Ideology in the Postwar United States," ("Conspiracy Theory and History" Conference, University of Konstanz, Germany, May 10, 2006.)
  • "Using and Evaluating Writing in Your Classes," (University of Massachusetts, Amherst, April 21, 2006).
  • "Constructing a Teaching Portfolio," (University of Massachusetts, April 21, 2006).
  • "The Cold War, The War on Terror, and the Teaching of English," (Distinguished Educator Lecture, Miami University, 2006).
  • "Postmodern Amnesia," (Cornell University, October 25, 2002).
  • "Remote Control: Conspiracy Theory and Ideology in Postwar U.S. Film," (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, December 16, 2002.) 
  • "Remote Control: Conspiracy Theory and Ideology in Postwar U.S. Film," (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universtität, München, Germany, December 18, 2002.)
  • "Cultivating Intellectual Curiosity Through Student Inquiry," (Plenary Address, Lilly Conference on College Teaching, UCLA, March 2000). 

Awards and Grants

  • Benjamin Harrison Medallion, awarded by Miami University's for career achievements in research, teaching, and service, 2020.
  • NEH Challenge Grant for the Miami University Humanities Center, $500,000, 2014.
  • College of Arts and Science Distinguished Educator, Miami University, 2005.
  • Greater Cincinnati Consortium of Colleges and Universities Celebration of Teaching Award, 2003.
  • Phi Kappa Phi, elected by Miami University for distinction in scholarship and teaching, 2003.
  • E. Philip Knox Distinguished Teaching Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, Miami University's highest teaching honor, 2002.
  • NEH Group Award, "Diversity, Identity, and Public Culture: Rethinking the American Studies Curriculum at Miami University," 2002–2003. (Grant authored by Marguerite Schaffer).
  • Selwyn College Fellowship, Miami University, 2001. Visiting Bye-Fellow, Selwyn College, Cambridge.
  • Alumni Teaching Fellow, Miami University, 1999–2000.
  • Assigned Research Appointments, Miami University, 2018, 2010, 2007, 2003, 1998.
  • Summer Research Appointment, Miami University, 2018, 2011, 2005, 2000, 1996.
  • Distinguished Story of 1995 in Best American Short Stories, for "Going to the Elephant."
  • Merton J. Sealts Jr. Prize, for best essay in the 1993 volume of ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance.
  • Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation, 1989–1993.

Commentaries and Interviews

  • "The Humanities and the Liberal Arts." (Interview with one other; 30 min.). Cincinnati Edition.  WVXU Radio (30 minutes). (Sept. 5, 2019).
  • "Brainwash Culture." (Interview with five others). BBC Radio Sunday Feature (60 minutes). BBC 3, March 13, 2016.  
  • "A Symptom of Mass Cultural Anxiety," Op-Ed, The New York Times. Jan. 5, 2015. 
  • "Conspiracy Theory." News Views with Garland Nixon. 60 min. WPFW (Washington, DC): 12 July, 2013. Radio.
  • "The Covert Sphere." Steve Fast Show. 18 min. WJBC (Illinois): 24 Feb. 2013. Radio. MP3 Audio File*
  • "Conspiracy Anyone?" The Agenda with Steve Paikin. 60 min. with 4 co-guests. TVO (Ontario): 13 February, 2008. Television. MP3 File: 11.2MB*
  • "The War on Terror and the Cold War," Odyssey. 60 min. with co-guest Alan Nadel. Public Radio International/WBEZ (Chicago): 9 Feb., 2005. Radio. Real Audio Metadata File: 77 bytes*
  • "Vernacular Politics." Odyssey (60 min. with co-guest Melissa Lacewell- Harrison, Public Radio International/WBEZ (Chicago): 12 Aug., 2004. Radio.
  • "The Manchurian Candidate," "To the Point" (20 minutes with co-guests A.O. Scott, Richard Schickle, David Ansen, and Daniel Pyle) Public Radio International/KCRW (Los Angeles): 27 July, 2004. Radio.
  • "Conspiracy Theories," The Joe Frank Show," Public Radio International, August 2000. Radio.

Work in Progress

Tim Melley is currently writing about the cultural politics of security.