Mike Sell

  • Dr. Mike SellProfessor

    Office: 506AA Humanities and Social Sciences Building
    Phone: 724-357-2272
    Email: msell@iup.edu
    Blog: This Professor Plays: Exploring the Interface Between Games and Literature
    Twitter: @mike_sell

    Education

    PhD, University of Michigan, English Language and Literature, 1997

    AB, Duke University, English, 1990

    Academic Interests

    • Playful literature: I’m interested in interdisciplinary approaches to videogames, board games, and tabletop roleplaying games. I’m fascinated by how games and players tell stories and communicate and complicate values. I’m intrigued by literature that utilizes playful writing strategies or that tell stories about games and those who play them.
    • Digital storytelling and design thinking: I’m the founder and leader of the Digital Storygame Project, which provides on-site, hands-on support to Pennsylvania public school teachers to incorporate coding and digital game design into their English Language Arts curricula. 
    • Black American literature, art, and culture, with focus on work created from the 1960s to the present.
    • Literature, art, and culture that challenges convention and positions itself against the mainstream.
    • Modern world drama, theater, and performance.
    • Critical theory, with focus on power, identity, and ethics.
    • Critical pedagogy.

    Publications

    My latest book is Systemic Dramaturgy: A Handbook for the Digital Age (Southern Illinois University Press, 2020). My co-author, Michael M. Chemers, and I describe an approach to theater that challenges conventional understandings of technology. We argue that technology isn’t a new problem in theater. In fact, it is the original problem of theater.

    Approaching the problem of technology in a comparative historical and cultural framework, we show the benefits of thinking systemically about theater and drama. In so doing, we describe an approach to theater and performance that enables not only smarter use of technology in the theater, but enables smarter thinking about other technologies, especially videogames. 

    With Megan Condis, I’m editing an anthology on literary representations of videogames, videogame players, and videogame culture. Ready Reader One: The Stories We Tell About, With, and Around Videogames will be published in 2021 by Louisiana State University Press. It features essays on the work of Haruki Murakami and Liu Cixin, adaptations of Alice in Wonderland, novelizations of videogames, life writing, fan fiction, hip hop lyrics, participatory culture, and collaborative storyworld creation. It is the first book of its kind, underlining how important it is for us to know how we think and feel and experience this increasingly ubiquitous and powerful medium.

     In addition to writing about games, I also play and design them. I’m a regular game manager of tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, and Monster of the Week. And I’ve written several original scenarios and supplements for them, designing them for fun and to promote consciousness of race, gender, sexuality, and ability. 

    I’m an internationally recognized scholar of the avant-garde, Black American literature and culture, and modern world drama, theater, and performance. My book Avant-Garde Performance and the Limits of Criticism (University of Michigan 2005) inaugurated the Critical Vanguard Studies movement. The Avant-Garde: Race Religion War (University of Chicago 2011) is an interdisciplinary genealogy of the avant-garde concept. I’m the editor of Avant-Garde Performance and Material Exchange (Palgrave Macmillan 2011) and Ed Bullins: Twelve Plays and Selected Writings (University of Michigan 2006). My essays have appeared in African American Review, modernism/modernity, New Literary History, TDR, Theatre Journal, and Theatre Survey as well as in anthologies published by Blackwell, Cambridge University, Oxford University, Palgrave Macmillan, and the University of Michigan. 

    My scholarly achievements were honored by IUP in 2013 when I was awarded the prestigious IUP University Senate Distinguished Faculty Award for Research.

    I’m as passionate about teaching as I am scholarship. Since joining IUP in 1999, I’ve won three Outstanding Professor of the Year and two Outstanding Adviser of the Year from the IUP Sigma Tau Delta organization and the Mentor of the Year award from the English Graduate Organization.