Jessica E. Teague, PhD
Jessica Teague received her PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and is currently an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She specializes in 20th and 21st-century American Literature and has taught courses on Jazz and American Literature, Modern American Drama, Modern American Novel, as well as surveys of American Literature, World Literature, and Theory. The intersections between literature, sound, and technology are the focus of her research, and she is the author of Sound Recording Technology and American Literature, from the Phonograph to the Remix (Cambridge UP, 2021). The book was awarded a 2022 American Book Award (the Walter and Lillian Lowenfels Award for Criticism) and shortlisted for the Modernist Studies Association First Book Prize. Her teaching and research is interdisciplinary and engages with modernism, sound studies, jazz, theatre and performance, new media, and African American studies. She has penned numerous articles and essays, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in venues such as American Quarterly, Sound Studies, MELUS, SoundingOut! and others. She has also been the recipient of research fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Harrison Institute at the University of Virginia. She is currently working on a new book about jazz in Las Vegas.
More About Me
… the longer story
I originally hail from San Jose, CA where, from an early age, I developed a deep love of music and storytelling. Truth be told, I come from a family of music lovers and audiophiles. My dad had pursued music before moving into the tech industry (in the 80s he worked at Memorex!), and my paternal grandmother was a church organist. My great-grandmother’s player piano holds a sacred place in our family home. My dad and uncles were always trading tips about stereo equipment, and one of my uncles even built his own speakers and made sure I knew who Miles Davis and John Coltrane were. My mom, a visual artist and history buff, frequently took me and brother on day trips to San Francisco to get a taste of culture. Sensing my own musical proclivities, my parents signed me up with the local children’s theatre (now CMT SJ) at around age 6 and for a while there I was obsessed with musical theatre. My days were filled with play practice and sneaking away to quiet corners to read novels. I was lucky enough to attend performing arts magnet schools and graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School, where I sang in the jazz choir and competed in Mock Trial. I owe a great deal to the music and English teachers at Lincoln who pushed me to sharpen my writing and critical skills, as well as my listening skills.
From there, I moved to Los Angeles and attended UCLA where I majored in American Literature and Culture and minored in Political Science. After a summer internship in the Development Department of the Henry Mancini Institute, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at producing live events and so I joined the UCLA Student Committee for the Arts where I worked on numerous shows and produced a multi-day World Music and Dance Festival featuring students and faculty. After graduating, I bounced around LA for a couple of years and worked for the Henry Mancini Institute again as well as for Disney Consumer Products before ultimately deciding that I wanted to pursue graduate work in literature and music.
When I moved to New York to begin my MA at Columbia University, I was not sure whether I’d stay in academia—I just knew I wanted to research, to write, and explore the arts. I worked part time for the National State Attorneys General Program at the Law School, managing multi-year grants and hosting conferences for government officials. I started producing theatre with a classmate, including a play at the NYC Fringe Festival. I even spent a summer as the artist liaison of the Aspen Music Festival. But mostly, I found myself haunting Butler library, devouring courses on modernism, obsessing over Gertrude Stein, and hanging around the events and lectures hosted by the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia. With encouragement from my mentors, I applied to stay for the PhD.
Graduate study was challenging, but I was fortunate to have incredible mentors, including Brent Edwards and Bob O’Meally. They helped to nudge me in the direction of archival research, which sent me traveling to libraries from New Orleans to Paris. They helped me weave together my various interests in literature, music, sound, and technology. When I needed a break from the rigors of dissertation writing and the solitude of the library stacks, I would head out to hear music. I was lucky to live just around the corner from one of the greatest jazz clubs in Harlem, St. Nick’s Pub, which was also just a few blocks from where Ralph Ellison penned Invisible Man. Living in New York was a joy, and I was surrounded by a cohort of delightful literature nerds who have become dear, life-long friends.
After graduating from Columbia in 2013, I moved to Las Vegas with my husband. I’ve grown to love living in this strange and miraculous desert city. When I am not teaching or writing, I enjoy traveling, hiking, and exploring Vegas’s local music and theatre scene. I’ve also become a fan of morning walks with our son, hunting for sticks and lizards, and teaching him to sing new songs.