Melissa Littlefield works at the intersections of technology and culture, focusing on the ways that technological solutions are often proposed for invented and imagined “problems.” She particularly enjoys intersections between technologies, popular media, and science fiction. In the past couple of decades, Littlefield worked in the forensic sciences and neurosciences, focusing on technologies such as lie detection, fMRI, and EEG; she’s now turning her attention to chemistry and textiles with a new book project about the ways that wool textiles became a mid-century American problem in need of technological and chemical solutions.
Originally trained as a Literature and Science scholar at Penn State, her scholarship often intersects with Science and Technology Studies. Littlefield’s first book, The Lying Brain: Lie Detection in Science and Science Fiction (University of Michigan Press, 2011) is a socio-cultural history of mechanical lie detection and its relationship to the emergent, neuroscientific research on the neural correlates of deception. Her second book, Instrumental Intimacy: EEG Wearables and Neuroscientific Control concerns the emergence of mobile, user-centered EEG devices and the popular and scientific discourses that fuel their distribution and use. She is also the co-editor (with Jenell Johnson) of The Neuroscientific Turn: Transdisciplinarity in the Age of the Brain (University of Michigan Press, 2012); and co-editor (with Rex Ferguson and James Purdon) of The Art of Identification: Forensics, Surveillance, Identity (Penn State UP, 2021).
From 2006 to 2019, Littlefield was jointly appointed in the Departments of English and Kinesiology and Community Health. She is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Technology and the Writing Studies Program and served as the Program Leader for the Neuro Cultures INTERSECT Graduate Training Program (2012-2014). Since 2013, Littlefield has co-edited (w/ Rajani Sudan) the Society for Literature and Science’s journal, Configurations. Her essays can be found in journals such as Frontiers in Human Neuroscience; Social Studies of Science; Science, Technology & Human Values; Advances in Medical Sociology; Crime, Media Culture; and in several edited collections, including Andrew Shail and Laura Salisbury’s collection, Neurology and Modernity: A Cultural History of Nervous Systems, 1885-1950.
Literature and science, science & technology studies, critical neuroscience, forensic science, science fiction, disciplinarity
Ph.D. English and Women's Studies, Penn State University, 2005
Science and Technology Studies, literature and science, science fiction, body studies, feminist/science studies
- Engl 120: Science Fiction
- Engl 221: Speculative Futures
- Engl 300: Writing about Literature
- Engl 475: Literature and Other Disciplines
- Kines 442: Body, Culture, Society
- Engl 582: Topics--Writing Bodies of Knowledge
- Kines 594: Representing Bodies
Additional Campus Affiliations
Littlefield, M. M. (2018). Instrumental Intimacy: EEG Wearables and Neuroscientific Control. Johns Hopkins University Press. https://muse.jhu.edu/book/57783
Littlefield, M. M. (2011). The Lying Brain: Lie Detection in Science and Science Fiction. University of Michigan Press. https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.3091709
Littlefield, M. M., & Johnson, J. M. (Eds.) (2012). The Neuroscientific Turn: Transdisciplinarity in the Age of the Brain. University of Michigan Press. https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.4585194
Ferguson, R., Littlefield, M. M., & Purdon, J. (Eds.) (2021). The Art of Identification: Forensics, Surveillance, Identity. (AnthropoScene: The SLSA Book Series; Vol. 9). Penn State University Press. https://doi.org/10.5325/j.ctv1t4m1g4, https://doi.org/10.1515/9780271091372
Littlefield, M. M. (2021). ‘Vital signs’: EEG wearables and the nervous system of the city: EEG wearables and the nervous system of the city. Studia Neophilologica, 93(2), 190-205. https://doi.org/10.1080/00393274.2021.1916998
Urban, T., Littlefield, M., & Sudan, R. (2021). Special issue: Science, technology, and literature during plague and pandemics. Configurations, 29(4), 365-373. https://doi.org/10.1353/CON.2021.0026
Littlefield, M. M. (2020). Electrical Potential: Mind Reading as Collaborative Action. In L. Schlicht, C. Seemann, & C. Kassung (Eds.), Mind Reading as a Cultural Practice (pp. 19-42). (Palgrave Studies in Science and Popular Culture). Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-39419-6_2
Adamson, B. C., Adamson, M. D., Littlefield, M. M., & Motl, R. W. (2018). ‘Move it or lose it’: Perceptions of the impact of physical activity on multiple sclerosis symptoms, relapse and disability identity. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 10(4), 457-475. https://doi.org/10.1080/2159676X.2017.1415221