Meet our new faculty: Humanities

This semester, Arts & Sciences welcomes more than 30 new faculty members! Meet our newest instructors and colleagues in the humanities.

This fall, departments and programs across the humanities add 15 new instructional faculty to their ranks. See brief introductions below, and be sure to also read about our new faculty in the social sciences and new faculty in the natural sciences and mathematics

African and African-American Studies

Samuel Shearer

Samuel Shearer, PhD, has accepted an assistant professor position with the Department of African and African-American Studies. Most recently, Shearer was in residence with the Center for the Humanities at Washington University as a postdoctoral fellow. There, he edited his dissertation, “The Kigali Model: Making a 21st Century Metropolis,” into a book manuscript. For that project, Shearer did 27 months of fieldwork in Kigali, Rwanda, examining the relationship between urban design and everyday life. In a separate project, he is following the lives of Rwandans who have recently left Kigali for other cities in the region. Shearer earned his doctorate in 2017 from Duke University.

Comparative Literature

Matthias Goeritz

Matthias Goeritz, PhD, joins Comparative Literature as a professor of practice. Goeritz is an award-winning poet, novelist, and translator. His first book of poems, Loops, was published in 2001, and he has since published three novels, two novellas, three collections of poetry, and numerous translations. Goeritz came to Washington University in 2015 as a doctoral candidate in comparative literature’s international writers track and was named the William H. Gass Fellow. Before completing his doctorate earlier this year, he served as a peer mentor for other international writers and co-instructed the “Literature in the Making” course. Goeritz’s latest novel, Parker, was published in 2018.

Film and Media Studies

James Fleury

James Fleury, PhD, joins Film and Media Studies as a lecturer. Fleury’s research focuses on the increasing overlap between the American film and technology industries. He is working on a monograph about the history of Hollywood studios in the video game business, with an emphasis on Warner Bros. and its conglomerate owners. He is the co-editor of the anthology The Franchise Era: Managing Media in the Digital Economy (Edinburgh University Press, 2019) and has served as a research fellow in UCLA's Digital Incubator and Think Tank. Earlier this year, Fleury earned his doctorate in Cinema and Media Studies at UCLA.


Chang-Min Yu, PhD, joins Film and Media Studies as a lecturer. Yu earned his doctorate earlier this year from the film studies program at the University of Iowa. His dissertation, titled “Corporeal Modernism: Transnational Body Cinema since 1968,” considers the body as a medium—not as mere representation in cinema—to examine the relationship between the bodies on screen and before the screen. Other work has been published in such journals as Film Criticism and Quarterly Review of Film and Video. His research interests lie in corporeal cinema, figural studies, sci-fi cinema, and contemporary Hollywood blockbusters.

Germanic Languages and Literatures

Mary Allison, PhD, joins the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures as a lecturer. Allison has served as a mentor to teaching assistants and as graduate supervisor of beginning-level German courses, and she is passionate about strengthening pedagogical practice and curriculum development. Additionally, she researches topics in Germanic linguistics, and her main interests lie in the growing subfield of historical sociolinguistics. Allison’s doctoral thesis, "Immigration and dialect formation in Nuremberg: The role of koineization in the development of the diminutive suffix system," investigates the intersection of historical events and language change. She earned her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

André Fischer

André Fischer, PhD, joins the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures as an assistant professor. A scholar of German literature, European cinema, and visual arts as well as intellectual history, he specializes in interwar and postwar modernism in artistic practice and aesthetic theory. In his current book project, he examines artistic myth-making practices in German postwar art, cinema, and literature. He has published articles on Werner Herzog, Peter Weiss, Bertolt Brecht, and Hans Henny Jahnn. Prior to Fischer’s appointment at Washington University, he was an assistant professor at Auburn University. He earned his doctorate from Stanford University in 2017.



Kristoffer Smemo

Kristoffer Smemo, PhD, joins the Department of History as a visiting lecturer. Smemo is a historian of the United States specializing in social movements, political parties, public policy, and urban spaces in the long twentieth century. He teaches introductory survey courses and specialized classes on the social and political histories of the United States and the world. Smemo’s current book project, Making Republicans Liberal: Social Struggle and the Politics of Accommodation in Twentieth Century America, is under contract at the University of Pennsylvania Press. He earned his doctorate from the University of California, Santa Barbara.


Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies

Flora Cassen, PhD, joins the Department of Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of History as an associate professor. Most recently, Cassen served on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her 2017 book, Marking the Jews in Renaissance Italy: Politics, Religion, and the Power of Symbols, published by Cambridge University Press, offers an analysis of the discriminatory marks that the Jews were compelled to wear in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy. Her second book project studies how Italian Jews became subjects of the Spanish Empire in the sixteenth century, and how they understood the empire’s colonial endeavors in the Americas. She is also working on a short textbook on antisemitism, which is under contract with Routledge.

Martin Luther Chan

Martin Luther Chan joins the Department of Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies as a lecturer. Chan's fields of interests include Hebrew Bible, Arabic, and language pedagogy. His research is on the sociolinguistics of Biblical languages. This semester, Chan is teaching multiple levels of Modern Hebrew language courses. He is completing his doctorate at UCLA.




Esther Kurtz

Esther Viola Kurtz, PhD, has accepted an assistant professor position with the Department of Music. After earning her doctorate in ethnomusicology from Brown University in 2018, Kurtz became a postdoctoral teaching fellow here at WashU. So far in the department, her courses have included “Music Ethnography and Fieldwork Methodologies” and “Ethnomusicology.” Kurtz’s research focuses on African diasporic sound-movement practices as sites for generating new ways of thinking about race, gender, and politics. Her current book project critically examines the political potentials and shortcomings of cross-racial affinity cultivated in a group of capoeira Angola, the Afro-Brazilian fight-dance-game.

Lauren Eldridge Stewart, PhD, joins the Department of Music as an assistant professor. Eldridge Stewart's research interests include the cultural uses of classical music, folklore, and material culture across the African diaspora. She earned her doctorate from the University of Chicago in 2016 after defending her dissertation, titled "Playing Haitian: Musical Negotiations of Nation, Genre, and Self." She has taught in the music departments of the University of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, and Spelman College, and performed Haitian piano repertoire both in Haiti and across the U.S. Her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the American Musicological Society.


Boyd Millar, PhD, joins the Department of Philosophy as a lecturer. Millar specializes in the philosophy of mind, and his present research concerns perceptual experience and the ethics of belief. His recent and forthcoming papers appear in journals such as Mind & Language, Episteme, and The Journal of Philosophy. Millar earned his doctorate from the University of Toronto, and he has previously held positions at the University of Buffalo and Northern Illinois University.

Janella Baxter, PhD, joins the Department of Philosophy as a lecturer. Baxter is a philosopher of the sciences, specializing in the history and philosophy of biology and technology. Her work falls under three related categories – the role of technology in causal explanation, the nature of technological innovation, and social, political, and ethical questions concerning the development and use of technology. After earning her doctorate at the University of Illinois, Chicago, she held postdoctoral research positions at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Minnesota. This semester, Baxter is teaching courses on biomedical ethics and environmental ethics.

Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Heather Berg

Heather Berg, PhD, joins the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies as an assistant professor. Berg’s research explores sexuality, work, and social struggle. Her book Porn Work, under contract with UNC Press, draws on ethnography and policy analysis to explore precarity and resistance in the U.S. porn industry. Berg earned her doctorate from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2016 and has taught at the University of Southern California. At Washington University she will be teaching classes in sexuality studies and feminist theory.


René Esparza

René Esparza, PhD, joins the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies as an assistant professor. Currently, Esparza is working on a book manuscript, From Vice to Nice: Race, Sex, and the Gentrification of AIDS, which analyzes how the racial, sexual, and geographic coordinates of the Upper Midwest bore upon privacy-based approaches to LGBTQ equality that emerged in response to the AIDS epidemic. Esparza earned his doctorate in American Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Most recently, he was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.