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Laura OtisProfessor


Laura Otis began her career as a scientist, earning her B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale in 1983 and her M.A. in Neuroscience from the University of California at San Francisco in 1988. Before receiving her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Cornell University in 1991, she worked in labs for eight years.

Since 1986, she has been studying and teaching about the ways that scientific and literary thinking coincide and foster each other's growth. Otis works with British Victorian, Spanish, German, French, and North and South American literature, especially nineteenth-century novels.

She is particularly interested in memory, identity formation, and communication technologies and has recently worked as a guest scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

In addition to her academic books, Otis has written six novels, including Clean. In 2000, she was awarded a MacArthur fellowship for creativity. 

Her latest book, Banned Emotions, is available from Oxford University Press.


  • B.S., Yale University
  • M.A., University of California, San Francisco
  • Ph.D., Cornell University
  • M. F. A., Warren Wilson College

Selected Publications


Lacking in SubstanceRefiner’s FireCleanBanned EmotionsRethinking Thought: Inside the Minds of Creative Scientists and ArtistsNetworking: Communicating with Bodies and Machines in the Nineteenth CenturyMuller's Lab Membranes: Metaphors of Invasion in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Science, and PoliticsLiterature and Science in the Nineteenth Century: An AnthologyOrganic Memory: History and the Body in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth CenturiesVacation Stories: FIVE SCIENCE FICTION TALES