Thomas Heise, Ph.D.

thomas heise
Assistant Professor, American Studies
Assistant Professor, English
Sutherland, 415
Penn State Abington
0119 Sutherland Building
Abington, PA 19001
The Gentrification Book Image

I’m a writer and scholar whose work explores issues of memory, urban culture, and twentieth and twenty-first century American literature.

I’ve grappled with these topics across four books:

  • the monograph The Gentrification Plot: New York and the Postindustrial Crime Novel (Columbia University Press, 2021), which is part of the Literature Now series;
  • the experimental narrative Moth (Sarabande 2013);
  • the monograph Urban Underworlds: A Geography of Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2011), which is part of the American Literatures Initiative; and
  • the volume Horror Vacui: Poems (Sarabande, 2006).

My creative and scholarly writing also has been published in Chicago Review, The Brooklyn Rail, The Missouri Review, American Literary History, and elsewhere.

My academic research seeks to bring to American literary studies an understanding of the spatiality of human life, as represented in literary and cultural materials, as deeply enmeshed in “real” human geographies that are undergoing constant transformation. To this end, my work pursues questions of how the built environment is structured by flows of capital and labor, how racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, and class subjectivities are constructed and contested in the domestic sphere, the street, the neighborhood, and the city at large, and how personal and public places preserve traces of histories, memories, ideologies, and affects.

I read American fiction for its narratives of place and its depictions of urban life, but I also read more expansively for how novels and genres have responded formally to the representational challenges that the urban environment poses as its spatiality changes and its social complexity multiplies. 

Moth Book Image

As a fiction writer and poet, I explore many of the same issues as I do in my scholarly work—problems of narration, urban and textual spaces, and the transmission of cultural and personal memory—though with an emphasis on the personal dimension rather than the forthrightly political and sociological ones, while recognizing they are inseparable. 

I’ve been a writer-in-residence / visiting writer at MacDowell (2015, 2017), the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (2018), the Rensing Center (2017), and the American Academy in Rome (2019). Prior to joining the faculty at Abington, I was a tenured Associate Professor at McGill University. 

I regularly teach creative writing workshops, advanced courses on crime fiction and city literature, and lower-level surveys of American literature. 

urban underworld book cover


The Gentrification Plot: New York and the Postindustrial Crime Novel. Literature Now series. Columbia University Press, 2021. 1-300.

See Amazon link.

Moth; or how I came to be with you again. Sarabande Books, 2013.1-176.

See Amazon link.

Urban Underworlds: A Geography of Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture. American Literatures Initiative. Rutgers University Press, 2011. 1-292.

See Amazon link.

Horror Vacui: Poems. Sarabande Books, 2006. 1-84.

See Amazon link.

Scholarly Essays, Book Chapters

“Writing the Ghetto, Inventing the Slum.” The City in American Literature and Culture. Ed. Kevin McNamara. (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2021). 70-84.

“Time and Space in Detective Fiction.” The Routledge Companion to Crime Fiction. Ed. Janice Allan, Jesper Gulddal, Stewart King, and Andrew Pepper. Routledge, 2020. 219-226.

“Libertarian Fictions: Violence and the Free-Market Radicalism of 1980s Literature.” American Literature in Transition: 1980-1990. Ed. Quentin Miller. Cambridge University Press, 2018. 270-283.

“Remembrance of Things Imagined: Urban Development and the Fictions of Memory.” American Literary History. 28.1, 2016. 210-222.

“Detecting Chinatown: New York, Crime Fiction, and the Politics of Urban Inscrutability.” Spaces – Communities – Representations: Urban Transformations in the U.S.A. Ed. Julia Sattler. Transcript-Verlag Press, 2015. 7-30.

“Subterranean Worlds: Urban Redevelopment, Queer Spaces, and John Rechy’s City of Night.” The Textual Outlaw: Reading John Rechy in the 21st Century. Ed. Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez and Beth Hernandez-Jason. Universidad de Alcalá, 2015. 23-42.

“Richard Price’s Lower East Side: Cops, Culture, and Gentrification.” Journal of Urban Cultural Studies. 1.2, 2014. 235-254.

“Don DeLillo.” The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists. Ed. Timothy Parrish. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 290-300.

“The Crimes of Punishment: The Tortured Logic of Mickey Spillane’s Kiss Me, Deadly.” The Journal of Popular Culture. 45.1, 2012. 56-78.

“Fitzgerald’s Depression.” Berfrois. September  2012.…

“American Psycho: Neoliberal Fantasies and the Death of Downtown.” Arizona Quarterly. 67.1, 2011. 136-160.

“Degenerate Sex and the City: Djuna Barnes’s Urban Underworld.” Twentieth-Century Literature. 55.3, 2009. 287-321.

“Harlem is Burning: Urban Rioting and the ‘Black Underclass’ in Chester Himes’s Blind Man with a Pistol.” African American Review. 41.3, 2007. 487-506.

“‘Going Blood-Simple Like the Natives’: Contagious Urban Spaces and Modern Power in Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest.” Modern Fiction Studies. 51.3, 2005. 485-512.

“‘A Rough and Lurid Vision’: Henry James’s Adventure in the Ethnic Underworld of New York City.” The Image of the City in Literature, Media, and Society. Ed. Will Wright and Stephen Kaplan. Boulder: Colorado State University, 2003. 141-148.

“Race, Writing, and Morality: Cultural Conversations in the Works of Ralph Ellison.” BioCritiques: Ralph Ellison. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Press, 2003. 51-76.

“The ‘Purposeless Splendor’ of the Ideal in the Fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald.” BioCritiques: F. Scott Fitzgerald. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Press, 2002. 47-66.

Horror Vacui: Poems Image

Creative Writing in Journals

“My Beautiful City.” The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Art, Politics and Culture. March 2021. 7-11.

 “Ghost Money.” Chicago Review. 63.3-4, 2020. 148-154.
“Excerpt from Night Blooms.” Tampa Review Online. 8 Nov. 2019.

“from The Disquieting Muses.” Berfrois. Ed. Russell Bennetts. London: Pendant Publishing March 10, 2015. 4600 words.

“from Moth.” Berfrois. Ed. Russell Bennetts. London: Pendant Publishing. July 16, 2013. 2600 words.

“from Moth.” Gulf Coast: a Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. 25.1 (Fall 2012). 124-127.

“from Moth.” The Missouri Review. Vol. 34, No. 4 (Winter 2011). 171-179.

“from Moth” (originally published as “from The Journal of X”). Columbia Poetry Review. No. 22, 2009. 46-50.

“from Moth” (originally published as “from The Journal of X”). Another Chicago Magazine. No. 48.2, 2009. 53-56.

“from Moth” (originally published as “from The Journal of X”). The Modern Review. Vol. 3.1, 2007. 27-35.

“Examination.” The Laurel Review. Vol. 41.2, 2007. 50-51.

“from Moth” (originally published as “from The Journal of X”). Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. Issue 44, 2007. 33-40.

“from Moth” (originally published as “from The Journal of X”). The Canary. No. 6, 2007. 42-47.

“These New Days [‘Last Night’]” and “These New Days [‘After the Massacre of Lost Objects’].” Conduit. No. 17, Fall 2006. 16-17.

“Corrections.” Verse. Vol. 22.1, 2005. 121.

“Horror Vacui.” Gulf Coast: a Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. Vol. 17.1, 2005. 12-15.

“Examination [2]” and “Rosary.” Slope. No. 21, Winter 2004 05.

“Exeat” and “Red Giant, White Dwarf.” Gulf Coast: a Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. Vol. 16.2, 2004. 237-241.

“Noctuary” and “The End of the Imaginary.” Forklift, Ohio. No. 13, 2004.

“My Pieta” and “Terra Incognita.” The Journal. Spring 2003. 166-169.

“Plan B.” Ploughshares. Vol. 28.4, 2002-03. 70.

“Wreckage,” “The Sewer,” and “The American Museum of Natural History.” The Cream City Review. Vol. 26.2, 2002.

“Ghazal for the Body” and “Imaginary Sanitarium.” Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review. Spring/Summer 2002. 47-50.

“The Remainder.” Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. Issue 34, Winter 2001. 25.

“Obituary [first draft],” “Obituary [revised],” “First Order of Appearances,” and “Second Order of Appearances.” Indiana Review. No. 23.1, Spring 2001. 84-90.

“The End of Travel.” Southern Humanities Review. Vol. 34, Fall 2000. 328-329.

“The Orchard of Orange Trees” and “The Affair.” Washington Square. Issue 5, Summer 1999. 15-20.

“Ghazal: Inertia” and “El Dia de los Muertos.” Hayden’s Ferry Review. Issue 20, Spring / Summer 1997. 8-10.

Creative Writing in Anthologies

The Brooklyn Poets Anthology. “New York City.” Ed. Jason Koo and Joe Pan. Brooklyn, NY: Brooklyn Arts Press, 2017. 138-139.

Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century. “Zombie,” “Corrections,” and “My Pietà.” Ed.. Michael Dumanis and Cate Marvin. Louisville, KY: Sarabande Books, 2006.163-166.

Ph.D., English, New York University.

M.A., Creative Writing, University of California, Davis.

B.A., English, summa cum laude, Florida State University.