Springe direkt zu Inhalt

Maxime McKenna

Headshot McKenna 2023

PhD Candidate

Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin


  • 2021– | Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School of North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

  • 2015 | Master of Arts, English Language and Literature, The University of Chicago, USA

  • 2010 | Bachelor of Arts, English, The University of Pennsylvania, USA

Conference Papers

  • 2023 | "Interstates: Superhighways, California Noir, and the Neoliberal Order, 1956–92," dissertation project presentation at the HCA Spring Academy, Heidelberg Center for American Studies (Heidelberg, DE), March 2023.
  • 2022 | "Neo-Noir's Strange Loops: Infrastructure and the (Filmic) Past in Chinatown and Who Framed Roger Rabbit," conference paper presented at Eco-Temporalities and Geo-Politics, a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities, Universität zu Köln (Köln, DE), October 2022.
  • 2022 | “The Case of Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Intellectual Property, Neoliberalism, and Conspiracies of Infrastructure,” conference paper presented at the International PhD Seminar, Roosevelt Institute for American Studies (Middelburg, NL), May 2022.
  • 2015 |  “Zigzagging in the Motor Age: Automobility and Errant Mobility in The Crying of Lot 49,” conference paper presented at Converging Narratives: The Personal Meets the National, University of Illinois at Chicago (Chicago, IL, USA), April 2015.
  • 2011 |  “Authorities and Authors of Redevelopment: The Language of Black Displacement in Philadelphia,” conference paper presented at Intertextuality, University of North Carolina – Wilmington (Wilmington, NC, USA), April 2011. 

Professional Experience

  • 2022 | Co-organizer, International Graduate Workshop, American Grids: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Housing Energy and Infrastructure, Freie Universität Berlin, 17 June 2022.

  • 2014 | Co-organizer, Concussions, Commotions, and Other Aesthetic Disorders, The University of Chicago, November 2014.

Interstates: California Noir and the Infrastructure of Neoliberalism, 1956–92 (dissertation project)

Dissertation in Culture

Mentoring team:
First supervisor: Prof. Frank Kelleter
Second supervisor: Dr. Myka Tucker-Abramson
Third supervisor: Prof. Dr. Martin Lüth

On the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac’s classic road novel, On the Road, scholar and critic Louis Menand wrote in The New Yorker, “The interstates changed the phenomenology of driving." This dissertation project unpacks Menand’s claim by rephrasing it as a question within American cultural studies: what is the cultural imaginary of the Interstate Highway System, the largest public infrastructure project in U.S. history? Moreover, how does this imaginary differ from other cultural imaginaries surrounding automobiles and the American road more generally? In pursuing these questions, Interstates: California Noir and the Infrastructure of Neoliberalism, 1956–92 deploys an interdisciplinarymethodology incorporating infrastructure studies, ideology critique, and ecocriticism to track responses to the unique space of the interstateacross the transmedial archive of California noir. This dissertation aims to extend scholarship on post-1945 American culture and critical studies of infrastructure, as well as on popular cultural forms including Hollywood cinema, detective novels, science-fiction, and architectural manifestos, whose transformations in the twentieth century provide a case study for examining the aesthetics and subjective experiences emerging alongside the infrastructure of the interstate era. Furthermore, by arguing for the construction of the interstate as an epoch of American culture, Interstates hopes to offer an infrastructural account of the dominant historic shift of the past fifty years, the emergence of neoliberalism.

Academic Publications

  • 2022 | “The Freeway Fix: Infrastructure, Affect, and the Politics and Aesthetics of Distance in Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays.” AmLit – American Literatures 2.1 (2022)

  • 2014 | “Nothing Too Private: The Letters of T.S. Eliot Volume 3: 1926-27.” The Journal of Modern Literature 37.4 (Summer 2014): 182-185.

  • 2012 | “In the Wake of Fair Use: Incest, Citation, and the Legal Legacy of Finnegans Wake.” The Journal of Modern Literature 35.4 (Summer 2012): 56-72.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft