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Tim Dean

James M. Benson Professor, Associate Head for Faculty Development

Research Interests

Poetry and Poetics; 19th-, 20th-, 21st-century literatures in English; Psychoanalysis; Literary and Cultural Theory; Queer Studies

Research Description

In an era of information overload, my cross-disciplinary research addresses the production of meaning---existential and semiotic---as well as how meaning fails.  I investigate broad questions of meaning-production across discursive genres, across disparate fields (literature, film, photography, anthropology, philosophy, psychoanalysis), across national divisions, and across traditional historical periods.  In research on poetry and poetics, I focus on the transformation---but also the persistence---of key verbal forms such as the sonnet from the sixteenth century to the present.  In research on human sexuality, I focus on stigmatized or minority sex practices, including subcultural formations, that depart from social norms.  Interested in popular culture and subcultural vernaculars (as well as high culture and literary language), I research pornography in addition to poetry (see Porn Archives).  The sexuality strand of my research includes 30+ years’ work on the history of pandemics, notably HIV/AIDS.  This range of foci requires a mixed-methods approach: ethnography, formalist analysis, close reading, continental and pragmatist philosophy, and post-Freudian psychoanalysis. More often than not, my publications foreground methodological issues and reflect explicitly on disciplinary norms. For work in psychoanalytic theory, I received a Distinguished Educator award from the International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education in 2022. My research program---which has yielded 7 books and more than 170 book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles, and reviews---has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study, and humanities institutes at Stanford University, SUNY-Buffalo, and the University of Illinois, as well as by the James M. Benson Professorship.


  • BA, University of East Anglia, 1988
  • MA, Johns Hopkins University, 1992
  • PhD, Johns Hopkins University, 1994

Additional Campus Affiliations

Professor, Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory

Highlighted Publications

Hatred of Sex (University of Nebraska Press, 2022)

Porn Archives (Duke University Press, 2014)

Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking (University of Chicago Press, 2009)

Beyond Sexuality (University of Chicago Press, 2000)

Gary Snyder and the American Unconscious (Macmillan 1991)

Recent Publications

Dean, T. (2023). Freud's ménage à quatre. In P. Gherovici, & M. Steinkoler (Eds.), Psychoanalysis, Gender, and Sexualities: From Feminism to Trans (pp. 43-55). Routledge.

Davis, O., & Dean, T. (2022). Hatred of Sex. (Provocations). University of Nebraska Press.

Dean, T. (2022). ‘I Do What I Know How To Do’: Performing the Penis in Key West. In M. Jones, & E. Callahan (Eds.), Performing the Penis: Phalluses in 21st Century Cultures (pp. 136-160). (Gender, Bodies and Transformation). Routledge.

Dean, T. (2021). Poetics of Presence, Vocation, and Attention: The Example of Whitman. American Literary History, 33(1), 161-180.

Dean, T. (2020). Genre Blindness in the New Descriptivism. Modern Language Quarterly, 81(4), 527-552.

View all publications on Illinois Experts