Student Spotlight: Jason Shrontz

Profile-Pic-1-e1328930129560Hi, my name is Jason Shrontz, and I’m a 4th year PhD student in the English department. I completed my exams late in the Spring of 2014. My field is the contemporary novel with a focus on new media ecology. I’m interested in the rhetoric used to describe the historically precarious position of the novel within its media ecology: the novel is dead, the novel’s not dead, witness the death of the death of the novel! My dissertation investigates how novelists assert and scrutinize their print-based technology within this new media ecology. The first chapter turns to 9/11 novels such as Jess Walter’s The Zero and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It’s my argument that literary representations of the 9/11 attack have offered a place for novelists to discuss their craft within an increasingly connected and digitized world. The proliferation of media images juxtaposed by the consummation of paper in these novels provides a fertile metaphor for exploring the anxieties of a world void of print media. Another chapter investigates how the language we use to describe our social networks and media ecology—touch screens, staying connected, losing touch—mask an increasing absence of physical contact and interaction. New media hardware is increasingly moving away from physical interaction with our environment and data (think: touch screens, apple watch, google glasses, etc.). Looking at Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, a novel in which “the days of losing touch are almost gone,” this chapter focuses specifically on the relationship between figurative and literal understandings of touch. Other chapters, which I’m still developing, focus on the novel and remediation, as well as experimental print novels that integrate new media devices.

In addition to my scholarly pursuits, I’m also an ENG 999 mentor, a graduate liaison, and an associate editor for the Ocean State Review. I have an MFA from Northern Michigan University. Though I’m currently unable to write creatively as much as I want to, my position with the OSR affords me the chance to read and think about craft. I currently teach a class on the novel and new media at URI, and I’m hard at work twitter-stalking various authors to convince them to make a digital appearance in my class. While all this stuff keeps me busy, my absolute joy comes from my family: my wife Stacey, daughter Beatrice, and son Harper. Balancing family and scholarly time is always a challenge, but I don’t think I could realize the importance of maintaining this balance without my family and their support. It helps that I’m married to someone with unlimited patience and focus and a knack for making lists and schedules. Plus, at ages two and four, I’ve found that Harper and Bea have almost exactly the same interests that I do: books, things that beep when you push buttons, air-guitaring to rock’n’roll music, and running.

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