Brian Lennon
Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA, USA


In the luckiest and otherwise best cases, academic research and teaching afford the opportunity for continuous learning and reinvention, rather than standing in place in a career based on initial training. Every four or five years I've moved my work in a meaningfully different direction, from (1) creative writing (with a focus on literary nonfiction and the theory and form of the essay) and general or public arts criticism, to (2) new media, hypertext, and electronic literature, (3) translation studies, world literature, and multilingual literature, (4) security studies and critical institutional and disciplinary history, (5) the cultural history and political economy of computing.

I am the author of two monographs: Passwords: Philology, Security, Authentication (Harvard University Press, 2018), a critical history of literary data processing, and In Babel’s Shadow: Multilingual Literatures, Monolingual States (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), a study of literary multilingualism in print culture. My current work is on programming languages and cultures of software development, from the machine translation languages of the 1950s–1960s to the full-stack and cross-platform JavaScript of the 2010s. It includes three recently published essays: (1) "JavaScript Affogato: Programming a Culture of Improvised Expertise"; (2) "Program Text, Programming Style, Programmer Labor: Some Further Comments on Comments"; (3) "Foo, Bar, Baz…: The Metasyntactic Variable and the Programming Language Hierarchy."

At Penn State, I was the first faculty director (2014–2021) of the Digital Culture and Media Initiative, a project of the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts. My teaching includes undergraduate and graduate courses in new media and digital studies. Recent graduate seminars include “Media Theory and Modernity,” “Historicizing ‘Digital Humanities’,” and “Platform, Software and Code Studies.” Other undergraduate and graduate teaching has included courses in the theory of the essay, the literary fragment, U.S. nonfiction prose, and literatures of migration and displacement.

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Course sites


  1. Passwords: Philology, Security, Authentication. Harvard University Press, 2018. [Reviews]
  2. In Babel’s Shadow: Multilingual Literatures, Monolingual States. The University of Minnesota Press, 2010. Media Ecology Association Susanne K. Langer Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Symbolic Form, 2014
  3. City: An Essay. The University of Georgia Press, 2002. Associated Writing Programs Award Series in Creative Nonfiction, 2000


  1. "Foo, Bar, Baz…: The Metasyntactic Variable and the Programming Language Hierarchy." Philosophy & Technology 34.1 (2021): 13–32. (Special issue "Computing and Programming in Context.")
  2. "Program Text, Programming Style, Programmer Labor: Some Further Comments on Comments." Cultural Politics 14.3 (2018): 372–394.
  3. "Philology." The Bloomsbury Handbook to Literary and Cultural Theory. Ed. Jeffrey R. Di Leo. Bloomsbury, 2018. 620–621.
  4. “JavaScript Affogato: Programming a Culture of Improvised Expertise.” Configurations 26.1 (2018): 47–72.
  5. Editor’s introduction to “Thinking with the Sciences (2): Language.” diacritics 43.1 (2015): 3.
  6. “Passwords: Philology, Security, Authentication.” diacritics 43.1 (2015): 82–103. Special issue “Thinking with the Sciences (2): Language”.
  7. “Challenges to Monolingual National Literatures.” The Multilingual Challenge: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives, ed. Ulrike Jessner-Schmid and Claire J. Kramsch. De Gruyter, 2015. 143–160.
  8. “Machine Translation: A Tale of Two Cultures.” A Companion to Translation Studies. Ed. Sandra Bermann and Catherine Porter. Oxford, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2014. 133–146.
  9. “The Digital Humanities and National Security.” differences 25.1 (2014): 132–155. (Special issue on topic “In the Shadows of the Digital Humanities.”)
  10. “The Eversion of the Digital Humanities.” On Steven E. Jones, The Emergence of the Digital Humanities (Routledge, 2014). boundary 2: The b2 Review, September 2014. n. p.
  11. “New Stationary States: Real Time and History’s Disquiet.” symplokē 21.1–2 (2013): 179–193. (Special issue: “Critical Climate”)
  12. “Can Multilingualism Be Simulated?” Critical Multilingualism Studies 1.1 (November 2012): 94–106.
  13. “Remediafication.” Revue française d’études américaines 128 (2011): 30–45. (Dossier: “Le numérique dans les humanités américaines”)
  14. “distance@.” symplokē 17.1/2 (2009): 175-189.
  15. “New Media Critical Homologies.” Postmodern Culture 19.2 (January 2009). n.p.
  16. “Gaming the System.” EBR: Electronic Book Review, September 2009. n.p.
  17. “The Essay, in Theory.” diacritics 38.3 (Fall 2008): 71-92.
  18. “The Antinomy of Multilingual U.S. Literature.” Comparative American Studies 6.3 (September 2008): 203-224.
  19. “Misunderstanding Media: The Bomb and Bad Translation.” Criticism 47.3 (Fall 2005): 283-300.
  20. “Screening a Digital Visual Poetics.” Configurations 8:1 (Winter 2000): 63-85. Rpt.: “Screening a Digital Visual Poetics.” In Eduardo Kac, ed., Media Poetry: An International Anthology, (Bristol: Intellect Books, 2007): 251-270.

Edited journal issue

diacritics 43.1 (2015), "Thinking with the Sciences (2): Language."

Interviews, as interviewer