Steven Belletto is Professor of English at Lafayette College. His scholarship focuses on the broad intersections between aesthetics and politics in post-1945 U.S. literatures. His most recent work has been focused on rethinking the significance of the writers associated with the Beat literary movement. To this end, he recently completed The Beats: A Literary History, a major reassessment of the Beat movement in its literary, cultural, and political contexts (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Oliver Harris, President of the European Beat Studies Network, calls The Beats “a sophisticated self-reflexive inquiry”; Nancy M. Grace, editor of Journal of Beat Studies, notes it is a “comprehensive vision of Beat production”; and Matt Theado, editor of The Beats: A Literary Reference, has said it is “the most comprehensive, levelheaded book on the Beat Generation and its era.”
In addition to The Beats: A Literary History, Belletto also edited The Cambridge Companion to the Beats (Cambridge, 2017), a new introduction to Beat literature that brings together some of the best scholars writing about the Beats today.
Beyond his work concerning the Beats specifically, Belletto’s scholarship has helped to reframe how we understand post-World War II literature and culture, with particular emphasis on Cold War literature and culture. His first book, No Accident, Comrade: Chance and Design in Cold War American Narratives (Oxford UP, 2012), argues that chance became a conflicted cultural signifier during the Cold War, and shows how a range of writers innovated strategies for dealing with chance in their work. More recently, he co-edited Neocolonial Fictions of the Global Cold War (Iowa, 2019), a collection of essays that investigate the global Cold War through the framework of neocolonialism. He has also co-edited a collection of essays on Cold War literature and culture titled American Literature and Culture in an Age of Cold War: A Critical Reassessment (Iowa, 2012).
Belletto further explored mid-century American literature by editing American Literature in Transition, 1950-1960 (Cambridge, 2018), a volume that challenges staid conceptions of that decade’s literature (and for which he wrote the chapter on “African American Literature”). His essays concerning post-war literature and culture, on topics as varied as “Korean War literature,” “alternative civil rights literatures,” “the game theory narrative,” antifascist aesthetics, and the relationship between the Beat writers and India’s Hungry Generation, have appeared in a wide variety of journals, including American Literature, American Quarterly, ELH, Twentieth-Century Literature, Criticism, Clio, American Studies, Genre, Humanities, and Nabokov Studies. He is also a frequent contributor to academic book collections, and has recently published chapters on subjects ranging from Bob Dylan, teaching Beat little magazines, and the uses of measure in mid-century poetics.
At Lafayette College, Belletto teaches courses that explore U.S. literatures and cultures during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In addition to introductory courses in English, he regularly offers courses that mix canonical with under-studied texts and figures on a range of topics, including American fiction in a transnational context; Cold War literature and culture; histories of the American novel; aesthetics; the Beats; and contemporary fiction.
He is an editor for the journal Contemporary Literature.