William Egginton

William Egginton

Department Chair, Decker Professor in the Humanities, Director, Alexander Grass Humanities Institute

Contact Information

Research Interests: Spanish and Latin American literatures, comparative European literature and thought

Education: PhD, Stanford University

William Egginton is the Decker Professor in the Humanities, chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, and Director of the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of multiple books, including How the World Became a Stage (2003), Perversity and Ethics (2006), A Wrinkle in History (2007), The Philosopher’s Desire (2007), The Theater of Truth (2010), In Defense of Religious Moderation (2011), The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered in the Modern World (2016), The Splintering of the American Mind (2018), and The Rigor of Angels (2023), which was named to several best of 2023 lists, including The New York Times and The New Yorker. He is co-author with David Castillo of Medialogies: Reading Reality in the Age of Inflationary Media (2017) and What Would Cervantes Do? Navigating Post-Truth with Spanish Baroque Literature (2022). His latest book, on the philosophical, psychoanalytic, and surrealist dimensions of the work of Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, was published in January 2024.


Egginton’s contributions to early modern scholarship have focused on the importance for cultural and intellectual history of the rise of the great theatrical institutions in Europe, most notably in Spain. His theory of theatricality posits the stage as a fundamental medium for the transmission of ideas that contributed to structuring a way of conceiving of and inhabiting space peculiar to early modernity. Theatricality theory paved the way for his later work on baroque and neobaroque culture, which spanned cultural production in the Americas as well as in Europe. In recent years he has increasingly written for a broader public in venues such as The New York Times, and in books for the general reading public. In this way the form as well as the content of his work have developed into a full-throated appeal for the essential role of the humanities—particularly literature and literary studies—in society today.

Professor Egginton teaches courses on a range of topics, including Spanish and Latin American literature, literary theory, and the relation between literature and philosophy. Below is a partial list of his recent courses:

  • Great Books at Hopkins
  • The Cosmic Imagination
  • Baroque Literature and Thought
  • Horror in Spanish Literature
  • The Invention of Fiction
  • Borges, Derrida, Heidegger and the Paradoxes of Perception
  • Don Quixote
  • The Literature of Existence

Selected Books

  • The Splintering of the American Mind: Identity, Inequality, and the Future of Community (Bloomsbury, 2018)

Reviewed in The New York TimesNational Review, and elsewhere; featured on PBS’s “The Open Mind.”

  • Medialogies: Inflationary Media and the Crisis of Reality. Co-authored with David Castillo (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016)
  • The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered in the Modern World (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016)

Reviewed in The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Times of London, and elsewhere; starred review in Booklist; translations forthcoming in Taiwan, China, Turkey, Greece, and Spain.

  • In Defense of Religious Moderation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011)

Reviewed in The Newark Star-Ledger and elsewhere.

  • The Theater of Truth: The Ideology of (Neo)baroque Aesthetics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010)

Reviewed in CLIOModern Language QuarterlyComparative Literature StudiesRevista Hispánica ModernaTeatro: Revista de estudios culturales, and elsewhere.

Selected Edited and Translated Books

  • Lisa Block de Behar, Borges: The Passion of an Endless Quotation, second edition and translation (Albany: SUNY Press, 2014).
  • Co-editor with David E. Johnson, Thinking With Borges (Aurora, CO: The Davies Group Publishers, 2009)

Selected Articles and Chapters

  • “Hispanism and Humanitas in the Market University.” Co-authored with David Castillo. Hispanic Issues Online 6 (2016).
  • “Affective Disorder.” diacritics 40.2 (2012): 24-43.
  • “Religion – Conspiracy – Code.” MLN 126.4 (2011): 32-43.
  • “On Radical Atheism, Chronolibidinal Reading, and Impossible Desires.” CR: The New Centennial Review 9.1 (2009): 191-209.
  • “The Baroque as a Problem of Thought.” PMLA 124.1 (2009): 143-49.
  • “Performance and Presence, Analysis of a Modern Aporia.” Journal of Literary Theory 1.1 (2007): 3-18
  • “The Corporeal Image and the New World Baroque.” SAQ 106.1 (2007): 107-128.


In addition to his scholarly work, Egginton also contributes frequently to The New York Times and other periodicals.

Interviews, lectures, and presentations on his book, The Man Who Invented Fiction, include:

  • Interview with Full Stop.
  • Panel at The Center for Fiction, with translators Edith Grossman and Natasha Wimmer as well as author Álvaro Enrigue.
  • Lecture, “Twilight of the Idyll: How Cervantes Pulled Fiction Out of the Grave of Pastoral,” delivered at Concordia University for a conference on Cervantes and the Public Humanities.