Our leadership consists of Dr. Natalie Phillips, Assoc Professor of English and Dr. Julian Chambliss, Professor of English and  Val Berryman Curator of History at MSU Museum.

Each of our individual research projects are student-led.

Natalie Phillips

Natalie Phillips is Associate Professor of English, Affiliated faculty in Cognitive Science Program, and founder and co-director of the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition Lab (DHLC) at Michigan State University. She specializes in 18th-century literature, the history of mind, cognitive approaches to fiction, and disability studies. Her first book, Distraction: Problems of Attention in Eighteenth-Century Literature, traces how changing Enlightenment ideas about the unfocused mind reshaped literary form, arguing that descriptions of distraction in narrative advanced—and often complicated—scientific theories of concentration.

She is also a leading figure in the emerging field of literary neuroscience, pioneering a series of interdisciplinary experiments that use neuroscientific tools, such as fMRI and eye-tracking, to explore the cognitive dynamics of literary reading. Current experiments in progress at the DHLC include an fMRI study of literary attention and Jane Austen (MSU, Stanford), a neuroscientific study on the pleasures of poetry reading (MSU, NYU), a cross-cultural project on narrative perceptions of music (MSU, Princeton, Chinese University of Hong Kong), and most recently, Creativity in the Time of COVID-19: Art as a Tool for Combating Social Inequity and Injustice. Her second book project, tentatively entitled Literary Neuroscience and the Aesthetics of the Brain, grows out of this cross-disciplinary research, modeling a more reciprocal relationship between literature and neuroscience in interdisciplinary experiments and historicizing literary renderings of the brain from the eighteenth century to the present. She is also beginning another book project After leading Accessible Art initiatives with a focus on neurodiversity (2014-present), during COVID-19, she also has begun writing an autobiography about living with her disability, Teaching from the Floor: Adventures of a Neurological Disorder.

Phillips and the DHLC’s research has appeared in high-impact collections by Oxford UP, MIT Press, Routledge, Cambridge UP, etc. and been featured by NPR, BBC, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her multidisciplinary work also has been supported by a variety of national and international research grants and foundations, including ACLS/Mellon, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Teagle Foundation, and the Wallenberg Foundation of Sweden.

Julian Chambliss

Julian C. Chambliss is Professor of English with an appointment in History and the Val Berryman Curator of History at the MSU Museum at Michigan State University. In addition, he is a core participant in the MSU College of Arts & Letters’ Consortium for Critical Diversity in a Digital Age Research (CEDAR). His research interests focus on race, identity, and power in real and imagined urban spaces. His recent writing has appeared in PhylonFriezeRhetoric Review, and Boston Review. An interdisciplinary scholar he has designed museum exhibitions, curated art shows, and created public history projects that trace community, identity, and power in the United States. 

He is co-editor and contributor for Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men: Superheroes and the American Experience, a book examining the relationship between superheroes and the American Experience (2013). His recent book projects include Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Essays on the Social, Cultural and Geopolitical Domain (2018) and Cities Imagined: The African Diaspora in Media and History (2018). Chambliss is co-producer and host of Every Tongue Got to Confess, a podcast examining communities of color.  Every Tongue is the winner of the 2019 Hampton Dunn New Media Award from the Florida Historical Society Florida. In addition, he co-produced and co-hosted with Dr. Robert Cassanello from University of Central Florida of the Florida Constitution Podcast, a limited series podcast the won the 2019 Hampton Dunn Internet Award from Florida Historical Society. He is producer and host of Reframing History, a podcast exploring history theory and practice in the United States.