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Department of English
John R. Leo
Fullbrighter John Leo (right) with the former President of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski

John Robert Leo

Professor of English and
Comparative Literature

Ph.D. Northwestern University
M.A. Northwestern University
B.A. Yale University


John Leo’s main teaching and research interests are in queer theory and gender studies, comparative film studies, visual culture, theory, and 19th- and 20th-century fiction and nonfiction. These interests recharge and redirect with new research opportunities, e.g. with Fredric Jameson and Louis Marin, Nick Browne on a NEH grant at UCLA (on TV and media theory), on fellowships to research performance archives at The Huntington Library, or with Donald Pease on "The Futures of American Studies" at the Humanities Center seminars, Dartmouth (1998-1999). His teaching includes courses on Film and the Cold War and European “New Waves,” films and historical audiences, Joyce, Shelley and Blake, comparative literature and media, the novel. Dissertations he has directed engage 19th-century British prolegomena to “hyptertexts,” Anglophonic diasporic literatures and films, European and American postmodernisms, writing war and representing masculinities, "deep" ecocriticism and literary "natures," literature and sports, and other topics.

Professor Leo’s teaching spans these areas and has been shaped by his teaching experience in Europe. For example he explored and critiqued US television and media theory and divergent EU paradigms at the University of Utrecht (1991). As a Fulbright scholar he also taught nearly two years at Maria Curie-Sklodowska University (Lublin, Poland, 1998-2000) and one year at Constantine the Philosopher University (Nitra, Slovak Republic, 2003-2004).. Visual cultures, film studies, and (post)modern literatures were his main teaching areas as these participate in international processes and relations of exchange, revision, and distribution. In Poland Prof. Leo was honored to be appointed the first "Fulbright Distinguished Chair of American Studies"; he was renewed as a Senior Scholar, a position he enjoyed also in Slovakia. He helped organize and secure funding for the first ever international LGBT conference to be held in Poland (2000, and continuing)—one of the largest in the EU. He has been instrumental in developing partnerships and networks between European scholars and institutions and URI, particularly in film and international American studies. Most recently Professor Leo has been appointed to the Editorial Board of the journal American Studies (American Studies Center, University of Warsaw) as well as to the board of the Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF).

Some of Prof. Leo’s most recent essays or chapters have been on queer theory and the North American university (in Social Semiotics); on TV's representation of gay men in the Reagan era in Gender – Film – Media (Krakow 2000), a retooling of his piece in Displacing Homophobia (Duke UP 1989); and a chapter on Isadora Duncan and the role of “race” in the emergence of dance modernism's aesthetics, in Public Space, Private Lives: Race, Class, Gender and Citizenship in New York City, 1890-1929 (University Press of Amsterdam 2004). He co-edited Working Sites: Texts, Territories, and Cultural Capital in American Cultures (Amsterdam 2004) and an online book on comparative literature, Realizmus a antirealizmus v literatúre / Realism and antirealism in literature ( Nitra, Slovakia 2004). His work has appeared in SubStance, Centennial Review, South Atlantic Quarterly, Contemporary Literature, and elsewhere. His next book has the working title Modernizing Masculinities: Queer Mediascapes, “Race,” and Ethnicity.