I am a writer and photographer currently based in Mobile, Alabama. I also run a nonprofit concert series and serve as a Professor of English at the University of South Alabama, where I specialize in postmodern and contemporary fiction with an emphasis on sound studies. I earned a B.A. from Washington & Lee University in 1997, and spent the following three years teaching English as a foreign language in Wrocław, Poland. I did my graduate work at the University of Iowa, where I earned an M.A. in 2004 and a Ph.D. in 2007.
Recent News

MAY 7, 2024
Photos from High Water featured at No Depression: "Through the Lens"
APRIL  9, 2024
Photos from Luck Reunion featured at No Depression: "Through the Lens"
FEB 29, 2024
Latest  monograph reviewed in Technology and Culture: "Soundtracked Books"
JAN 23, 2024
Photos from 30A featured at No Depression: "Through the Lens"
DEC 26, 2023
Photos in year-end columns at No Depression: 12/5, 12/12, 12/19, 12/26
LP Project

During 2019/20, I was proud to serve as Project Director and Design Coordinator on a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation (a state partner with the National Endowment for the Humanities). As part of the project "Roots on Record," we released IMC Volume One in early 2020, a vinyl-only compilation featuring live recordings from Ray Bonneville, Richard Buckner, Ryan Culwell, Sam Doores, Tim Easton, Malcolm Holcombe, Will Johnson, Marie/Lepanto, Ramsay Midwood, Gurf Morlix, and Charlie Parr.

Check out the lead track below, read a review of the project at American Songwriter, or visit rootsonrecord.org for more information.


Soundtracked Books from the Acoustic Era to the Digital Age: A Century of "Books That Sing."
Routledge, 2022.

What, exactly, is a soundtracked book? Quite simply, it is a book — a physical, print publication or its digital analogue — for which a recorded, musical complement has been produced. First patented in 1917, "books that sing" have been hiding in plain sight for more than a century. Offering both a short history and a theoretical framework, this project is the first extended study of the soundtracked book as a media form. Early examples were primarily developed for the children's market, but by the middle of the twentieth century, ethnographers had begun producing book-and-record combinations that used print to contextualize musical artifacts. The last half-century has witnessed the rapid expansion of the adult market, including soundtracked novels from celebrated writers such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Kathy Acker, and Mark Z. Danielewski. While they are often dismissed as playthings or gimmicks, soundtracked books nonetheless represent an interesting case study in media consumption. Unlike synchronous multimedia forms, the vast majority of soundtracked books require that audience activity be split between readtime (the duration spent visually accessing the print component) and runtime (the duration of the musical recording). These competing timelines not only define the user experience but often shape the content of singing books as well.

"[A] well-researched and conversational account of a strikingly obvious, but frustratingly underrepresented, bit of popular-media history . . . St. Clair's project represents a productive way of studying ephemeral popular texts that lurk on the fringes of cultural consumption." - Los Angeles Review of Books


"[A]  convincing piece of media history" that "contributes a much-needed historical perspective to relations between books and sound." - Sound and Technology

Sound and Aural Media in Postmodern Literature: Novel Listening. Routledge, 2013.

This study examines postmodern literature — including works by Kurt Vonnegut, William Gaddis, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Ishmael Reed, and Thomas Pynchon — arguing that one of the formal logics of postmodern fiction is heterophonia: a pluralism of sound. The postmodern novel not only bears earwitness to a crucial period in American aural history, but it also offers a critique of the American soundscape by rebroadcasting extant technological discourses. Working chronologically through four audio transmission technologies of the twentieth century (the player piano, radio, television audio, and Muzak installations), this project charts the tendency of ever-proliferating audio streams to become increasingly subsumed as background sound. The postmodern novel attends specifically to this background sound, warning that inattention to the increasingly complex sonic backdrop allows for ever more sophisticated techniques of aural manipulation — from advertising jingles to mood-altering ambient sound. Building upon interdisciplinary work from the emerging field of sound culture studies, this book ultimately contends that a complementary, yet seemingly contradictory double logic characterizes the postmodern novel’s engagement with narratives of aural influence. On the one hand, such narratives echo and amplify postwar fiction’s media anxiety; on the other hand, they allow print fiction to appropriate the techniques of aural media. This dialectical engagement with media aurality — this simultaneous impulse to repudiate and to utilize — is the central mechanism of the heterophonic novel.

"Packed with information and insight into a fascinating and emerging field, Sound and Aural Media in Postmodern Literature is a vital and accessible inquiry into often overlooked aspects of the postmodern novel." - Los Angeles Review of Books

"Sound and Aural Media provides an excellent tutorial in how to listen to literature . . . and a compelling argument for why we should tune in." - Journal of American Studies  

"[A]n important intervention in literary criticism of the period that has eschewed consideration of the role that background noise plays in a variety of different novels. Indeed, St. Clair's work is a provocation to take such background noise seriously — whether it appears in fiction or off the page — in order to become more active and critical listeners of sounds usually dismissed." - The Year's Work in English Studies

Articles + Book Chapters

"Coded Sound: Reading in the Age of Networked Media." The Edinburgh Companion to Literature and Sound Studies, edited by Helen Groth and Julian Murphet. Edinburgh University Press, 2024.

"Sonic Methodologies in Literature." The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sonic Methodologies, edited by Michael Bull and Marcel Cobussen. Bloomsbury, 2021.

"Notes on Soundtracked Fiction: The Past as Future." The Edinburgh Companion to Literature and Music, edited by Delia da Sousa Correa. Edinburgh University Press, 2020.

"Music and Sound." Thomas Pynchon in Context, edited by Inger H. Dalsgaard. Cambridge University Press, 2019.

"Literature and Sound."
The Routledge Companion to Sound Studies, edited by Michael Bull. Routledge, 2018.

"The Reality of Fiction in a Virtually Postmodern Metropolis: Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City and Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge."
The City since 9/11: Literature, Film, Television, edited by Keith Wilhite. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2016.

"White Noise and Television Sound."
Journal of Sonic Studies 3, Fall 2012.

"Mahfouz and the Arabian Nights Tradition."
Approaches to Teaching the Works of Naguib Mahfouz, edited by Waïl S. Hassan and Susan Muaddi Darraj. MLA Approaches to Teaching World Literature, 2012.

"Eat Your Fried Mush: The Curious Case of Wee Willie Shantz."
Big Muddy 11.2, Fall 2011.

"Binocular Disparity and Pynchon's Panoramic Paradigm."
Pynchon’s Against the Day:  A Corrupted Pilgrim’s Guide, edited by Jeffrey Severs and Christopher Leise. University of Delaware Press, 2011.

"Soundtracking the Novel: Willy Vlautin’s Northline as Filmic Audiobook."
Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies, edited by Matthew Rubery. Routledge, 2011.

"Borrowed Time: Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day and the Victorian Fourth Dimension."
Science Fiction Studies 113 (38.1), March 2011.

"Sounds About Right: Thoughts on Pynchon's Bad Ear." International Pynchon Week, Vancouver, CA, June 7, 2022.

"Inherent Vice: A Conversation with J. M. Tyree."
Pynchon in 2021: An Online Symposium, June 26, 2021.

"Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Audioposition and Sound Judgment in Pynchon's Fiction."
International Pynchon Week, Rome, IT, June 12, 2019.

"Notes on a Dubious Enterprise."
Sound Studies Roundtable, Chaucer: Sound and Vision Conference, Mobile, AL, September 20, 2018.

"Ellipsonics: Sound and the Invisible in Mason & Dixon."
International Pynchon Week, La Rochelle, FR, June 6, 2017.

"How Appropriation Sounds: Playing Indian in Ursula K. Le Guin's Always Coming Home." The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900, Louisville, KY, February 24, 2017.

"'I'm Going to Shout Your F*cking Head Off': Jonathan Franzen and the Problem with Civility." MLA 2016 Convention, Austin, TX, January 8, 2016.

"The Inherent Vice Soundtrack." International Pynchon Week, Athens, GR, June 11, 2015.

"Sounds Exotic: The CBS Legacy Collection and Our Midcentury Imagination."
The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900, Louisville, KY, February 20, 2014.

"Scoring Books: Musical Adaptation and the Imaginary Urtext."
MLA 2013 Convention, Boston, MA, January 6, 2013.

"Novel Soundtracks and the Future of Hybridized Reading."
MLA 2013 Convention, Boston, MA, January 5, 2013.

"Just Press Mute: DeLillo and the Tele-visible."
The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900, Louisville, KY, February 24, 2012.

"'I Can't Sing Anyway': On Wee Willie Shantz and Doing It Yourself."
Post45 @ The Rock Hall, Cleveland, OH, April 29, 2011.

"Musical Notes:  The Book Score as Paratext." NeMLA 2011 Convention, New Brunswick, NJ, April 8, 2011.

"Impossible Music: Vaucanson and the Invention of the Hypervirtuosic." MLA 2009 Convention, Philadelphia, PA, December 30, 2009.

"Listening to Lolita." NeMLA 2009 Convention, Boston, MA, February 27, 2009.

"Contextualizing Mahfouz:  An Approach to Teaching Arabian Nights and Days." MLA 2008 Convention, San Francisco, CA, December 29, 2008.
Bits + Pieces

"An Antidote to Orthodoxy."
Los Angeles Review of Books, June 1, 2021.

Review of Neil Campbell's Under the Western Sky: Essays on the Fiction and Music of Willy Vlautin.
Western American Literature 54.3, Fall 2019.

"Rereading Thomas Pynchon: Postmodernism and the Political Real."
Los Angeles Review of Books, March 4, 2015.

"Thomas Pynchon Understands the Power of Conspiracy Theories."
Salon, September 25, 2013. [Reprint of LARB review.]

"Pynchon's Postmodern Legacy, or, Why Irony Is Still Relevant."
Los Angeles Review of Books, September 21, 2013.

Review of Michael W. Clune's American Literature and the Free Market, 1945–2000.
Modern Fiction Studies 57.2, Summer 2011.

"The Business of Art: An Interview with Kevin Gordon."
Sense 1.8, March 2011.

Entry on Mark Z. Danielewski.
Encyclopedia of Contemporary Writers and Their Work, edited by Geoff Hamilton and Brian Jones. Facts on File, 2010.

Entry on A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
Encyclopedia of Contemporary Writers and Their Work, edited by Geoff Hamilton and Brian Jones. Facts on File, 2010.

"Generic Computations." Review of Mark L. Brake and Neil Hook’s Different Engines: How Science Drives Fiction and Fiction Drives ScienceScience Fiction Studies 107 (36.1), March 2009.

"The Opposite of Literature." Review of Ken Gelder’s Popular Fiction:  The Logics and Practices of a Literary Field. Science Fiction Studies 101 (34.1), March 2007.

I am most easily reached via email: justin.m.stclair AT gmail.com.

My departmental mailing address is
: Justin St. Clair, Department of English, University of South Alabama, 5991 USA Drive, North / Room 240, Mobile, AL 36688.
IMC Concert Series

In 2009, I established a listening-room concert series and helped charter a student organization known as the Independent Music Collective (IMC). Over the past decade, our roots music series has become one of the premier listening-room stopovers in the Southeast. The mp3 player below contains 185 (or so) highlights that we've recorded.


I love to travel, and was honored to be a team member on a monthlong Rotary Group Study Exchange to Portugal (May 2012). I also spent six weeks at Fuzhou University Zhicheng College in China (May/June 2014), where I delivered undergraduate lectures on American folklore and conducted a series of postgraduate seminars on sound studies and contemporary American literature.

I'm an avid concert photographer. Here's an older portfolio and my discreditable Instagram.

From 2011-12 through 2013-14, I was the University of South Alabama's inaugural Faculty Member in Residence, and I was honored to serve
as Provost Faculty Fellow in 2017-18.