Monica Huerta is a cultural and literary historian of the nineteenth and twentieth century United States. Her research and teaching interests include 19th and 20th century American literature, including African American and Latinx, visual culture, photography, legal studies, and science studies.
Dr. Huerta's work has been generously supported by Princeton University, Duke University, the University of California, Berkeley, the Mellon Mays Fellowship, the Ford Foundation, the New York Public Library, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the Social Science Research Council, among others.
Her first manuscript, Involuntary Nonsense: The Racial Poetics of Modern Identity maps a multi-disciplinary genealogy of modern notions of racialized identity through the concept and study of modes of involuntarity in the nineteenth century. It argues that the shared vocabulary of photographic media across literary, legal, scientific, and performative cultural terrains put pressure on accounting for the bits of ourselves outside our control, especially our facial expressions. Even without cameras, facial expressions are curious as evidence of personhood because they reside at the unsteady fulcrum between biology and culture, communication and nonsense, interpretation and projection. But photography raised the stakes of deciding (and mobilizing) what these ephemeral expressions were and were proof of, in light of the automatism of muscular and neurological reactions and the habits formed through cultural mores. Involuntary Nonsense argues that expressions that could be termed involuntary became most one's own precisely because the click of a camera could take them.
Dr. Huerta holds an A.B. in History & Literature from Harvard University, an M.A. in History from Princeton University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently a Link-Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow at the Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. She previously held a Provost's Postdoctoral Fellowship at Duke University in the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. In the fall of 2019 she will join the Princeton faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of English and the Program in American Studies. Her work appears or is forthcoming in American Literature, J19: The Journal for Nineteenth Century Americanists, and nyartsmagazine.com.