Work samples

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    Book cover
  • Krall Krall
    "Krall Krall" follows two scientists with the same name as they investigate consciousness and its logical corollary, suffering. They work in different times and places: the first in pre-World War I Germany, the second in the living laboratory of the American-occupied South Pacific after World War II. Both are driven by a fascination with animal minds that alienates them from humanity. Both face political consequences for advocating radical new forms of thought and feeling. A series of interconnected historical fragments, the text incorporates fictional laboratory journals, appropriated archival material, poetry, and a short play. A polyvocal narrative emerges from these fragments, modeling the theory of distributed consciousness that both attracts and dissolves its actors. These intertwined stories trace a historical trajectory from a period of openness and potentiality to the “closed world” of the Cold War.

About Alicia

Baltimore City
Alicia Puglionesi is a writer and historian in Baltimore. She experiments with communication.

In Whose Ruins: Power, Possession, and the Landscapes of American Empire

Popular narratives of American history conceal as much as they reveal, presenting a national identity based on harvesting treasures that lay in wait for European colonization. In Whose Ruins tells another story: winding through the US landscape, from Native American earthworks in West Virginia to the Manhattan Project in New Mexico, this history is a tour of sites that were mined for an empire’s power. Showing the hidden costs of ruthless economic growth—particularly to Indigenous people—this book illuminates the myth-making intimately tied to place. From the ground up, the project of settlement, expansion, and extraction became entwined with the spiritual values of those who hoped to gain from it. Every nation tells some stories and suppresses others, and In Whose Ruins illustrates the way American myths have overwritten Indigenous histories, binding us into an unsustainable future.

Common Phantoms: An American History of Psychic Science

Séances, clairvoyance, and telepathy captivated public imagination in the United States from the 1850s well into the twentieth century. Though skeptics dismissed these phenomena as fraudulent, a new kind of investigator emerged seeking to reconcile science with the supernormal. As curious Americans took up psychical experiments in their homes, the boundaries of the mind began to waver -- yet, through practices grounded in gender and racial difference, those boundaries were often reinscribed. In Common Phantoms: An American History of Psychic Science (Stanford University Press, 2020), Alicia Puglionesi brings these experiments back to life while modeling a new approach to the history of psychology and the mind sciences. A vast, troubled, and troubling experiment in democratic science, psychical research gave participants tools with which to study experience on their own terms. Academic psychology would ultimately disown this effort as both a scientific failure and a remnant of magical thinking, but its challenge to the limits of science, the mind, and the soul still reverberates today.
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Krall Krall

CAR Press, Baltimore, 2013
Krall Krall follows two scientists with the same name as they investigate consciousness, suffering, and animal behavior. The first works in pre-World War I Germany, the second in the living laboratory of the American-occupied South Pacific after World War II. Both are driven by a fascination with animal minds that alienates them from humanity. Both face political consequences for advocating radical new forms of thought and feeling. Organized as a series of interconnected historical fragments, the text incorporates fictional laboratory journals, appropriated archival material, poetry, and a short play. A polyvocal narrative emerges from these fragments, modeling the theory of distributed consciousness that attracts and ultimately dooms the central characters.
  • Video of Cars Are Real book release event, October 2013
    Filmed by Andrew Glenn Shenker. Reading from "Krall Krall" begins at 50:00.
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  • Current Space book release
    Illustrations by the author for Cars Are Real book release and gallery show at Current Space, Baltimore, October 2013. This event featured works by Alejandro Ventura, Laura Warman, R.M. O'Brien, Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez, Josef Kaplan, and myself.
  • Cover design by Cameron Lock

Views from the National Forests

Poetry chapbook, Furniture Press, Baltimore, 2014
The poems in Views are an excavation of the American landscape. They unearth a particular set of values inscribed on the land by western expansion and tourism, linking the early-twentieth-century preservation movement with the process of suburbanization. Seen through the eyes of real and fictional characters, the ambitious infrastructure projects of the Progressive era become invisible and succumb to decay beneath the veneer of the American suburban pastoral.

Dictionary of Nonverbal Communication

The Dictionary of Nonverbal Communication includes scenes from a breakfast-food apocalypse, nightmares set in newspaper comic strips, meditations on deep time, case studies in evolutionary psychotherapy, and insights on building strong client relationships. Adapted from sources in applied psychology, it is a tool for those who hope to be "transparent, searchable, and utterly known."
Excerpts from the Dictionary were displayed at Current Space in September of 2019 with fabric wall hangings illustrating its contents, as part of a group show curated by Andy Bertell.
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first last light

In collaboration with photographer Jonna McKone, I developed a series of poems represented in a zine and wall text for the exhibit first last light at Full Circle Gallery (Feb.-April 2023). My text and found images reflect on the psychometric practice of mediums William and Elizabeth Denton, described in their book The Soul of Things (1863; 1874).

A note on the text: Self-taught geologist William Denton, his wife, the medium Elizabeth Denton, and his sister Annie Denton Cridge used the practice of  psychometry—reading the past in objects—to describe the natural history of the Earth and other planets. They believed that each object contains a multisensory record of all that has ever happened to it. Their dream of total knowledge reflects the imperial ambitions of many scientific and religious visionaries, yet also raises the specter of the disintegration of the unitary human self, utterly permeated by the teeming influences of accumulated matter.

Census of hallucinations

A series of presentations in which audience members are called upon to read aloud descriptions of dreams and abnormal psychical experiences culled from 19th- and early-20th-century archival sources. These experiences are then interpreted and set in context with corresponding images.
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Essays

Essays on topics of niche interest, often historical in nature.
  • Way of Control
    See article at: http://thisrecording.com/today/2012/2/16/in-which-the-dalkon-shield-has-a-paralyzing-effect.html "Hugh Davis was obsessed with inventing things. By the time he landed a job at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he had already created thirty pioneering laparoscopic instruments (used to operate inside the body through a single small incision), establishing the type of minimally-invasive surgery that patients expect today. He had worked with the best doctors and surgeons in the world. They reported that he was a real whiz-kid with an ego of troubling proportions."
  • Lascivious Material
    See article at: http://thisrecording.com/today/2012/1/13/in-which-we-explore-these-feminine-products.html "Contraception was a private female problem before it was a big business."
  • How To Live Forever By Being Mostly Dead
    See article at: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/how-to-live-forever-by-being-mostly-dead
  • Big Game Goes to Washington
    See articles here: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/in-which-big-game-and-eugenics-go-to-washington-or-environmentalism-is-born And here: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/it-s-dark-in-those-woods-tracing-environmentalism-to-eugenics-part-two
  • A Well-Poised Observer
    See article at: http://thisrecording.com/today/2013/7/26/in-which-we-stand-between-the-awe-and-wonder.html
  • This Creature
    See article at: http://thisrecording.com/today/2015/7/31/in-which-we-accept-margery-kempe-as-a-holy-person.html
  • The Dream of a World Without Pain
    See article at: http://thisrecording.com/today/2012/5/11/in-which-it-hurts-in-isolation-or-with-others.html
  • Lone Female at Home
    See article at: http://thisrecording.com/today/2012/3/1/in-which-we-entertain-the-opinion-of-the-inventor.html
  • Smile if it Hurts
    See article at: http://thisrecording.com/today/2012/6/26/in-which-they-stand-at-the-vanishing-point.html
  • The Manmade Marvel of the Baltimore Sewers
    See article at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-manmade-marvel-of-the-baltimore-sewers

Essays, continued

More essays.
  • The world but the map and the map the world
    Essay for Issue 2 of Schematic Quarterly, produced by Ingrid Burrington, Baltimore. This was a nonfiction piece about magnetism, models, metaphors, and the crafting of alternate worlds in the context of the 17th-century "scientific revolution". A performance and slideshow accompanied the magazine release.
  • The tedium of psychical research
    "Instead, amateur participation appears, in the archive, as excessive and unruly, overflowing the forms designed to contain it and producing an “inchoate accumulation” rather than a system of scientific facts." See article at: http://forbiddenhistories.com/2014/06/27/amateurs-empiricism-and-the-tedium-of-psychical-research-guest-post-by-alicia-puglionesi/
  • Proving it: The American Provers’ Union documents certain ill effects
    "Among the many novelties unleashed upon the world by Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, perhaps the most striking is the spectacle of dignified nineteenth-century physicians carefully imbibing graduated amounts of cannabis and attempting to record its effects upon their mental and physical states. Just as you wouldn’t feed dinner guests a dish that you hadn’t sampled, Hahnemann argued, doctors had no right to prescribe their patients remedies that they had not themselves tried." See article at: http://publicdomainreview.org/2013/09/04/proving-it-the-american-provers-union-documents-certain-ill-effects/
  • The Lost Mushroom Masterpiece Unearthed in a Dusty Drawer: How an obscure woman mycologist left her mark on fungi
    To her neighbors in 19th century Baltimore, the mycologist Mary Banning was a witch-like “toadstool lady”, known for boarding trolley cars with her arms full of slimy, putrid-smelling specimens. Many Americans once regarded mushrooms as unsightly and uniformly poisonous. Mycology—the study of fungi—was no pastime for a woman. http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-lost-mushroom-masterpiece-unearthed-in-a-dusty-drawer
  • In 1926, Houdini Spent 4 Days Shaming Congress for Being in Thrall to Fortune-Tellers
    Harry Houdini, testifying before a subcommittee of the United States Congress in 1926, brandished a sealed telegram and demanded that someone in the audience tell him the contents of the message inside. The chamber was packed with spiritualist mediums, psychics, and astrologers who had turned out to fight against Houdini’s bill, House Resolution 8989, which would ban the practice of “fortune telling” in the District of Columbia. If the mediums couldn’t read the telegram, Houdini argued, they belonged in jail for hawking fraudulent psychic powers. http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/in-1926-houdini-spent-4-days-shaming-congress-for-being-in-thrall-to-fortunetellers
  • How Counting Horses and Reading Dogs Convinced Us Animals Could Think
    Although metro-riding beavers, militarized dolphins, and their canny ilk seem to pop up almost weekly now, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that psychologists and the general public began seriously considering whether animals had consciousness, emotions, and intelligence. This was due in part to the fin de siècle fad for “wonder animals,” domesticated critters that solved math problems, answered riddles, and discoursed on philosophy, often using a code to communicate with their handlers. The catalyst for this wonder animal fad was Clever Hans, a mathematically-inclined German horse who gained notoriety in the early 1900s. He could apparently solve math problems–he even did square roots–and carry on simple conversations by tapping his hooves. When Hans started performing for an amazed German public, he amplified a growing interest in animal intelligence that had the potential to transform science and society.
  • The 19th Century ‘Show Caves’ That Became America’s First Tourist Traps
    A cave is a perfect mystery: dark, dangerous, and filled with pristine evidence. The caves underneath western Virginia attest to million-year geological transformations, but they also harbor intrigue on a human scale. The discovery of these subterranean wonders in the 1800s spawned a genre of local lore and popular fiction–call it “the romance of the cave”–in which crystal caverns became theaters for passion and politics. Many cave romances were European fantasies of ancient North America, featuring stereotyped Indians as well as mythical races like Phoenicians and lost tribes of Israel. Caves became gateways to an imagined past for a country with a very short recorded history. Meanwhile, centuries of tourism and amateur exploration have destroyed archaeological evidence that could have revealed a more realistic story of early Native American cultures. Full article at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/show-caves-arent-telling
  • How a Midwestern Potato Farm Became the World’s First Nuclear Waste Site
    It’s abundantly clear from their 1962 newsletter that the employees of the Mallinckrodt Chemical Company’s Uranium Division were proud of their work. On the division’s 20th anniversary, they produced a cheerful tribute to “growth and progress in research, in management, in human relations–and in the total reputation of the organization.” The newsletter circulated through office mailboxes and break-rooms in a bustling, cutting-edge facility on the suburban fringes of St. Louis, Missouri. Today the spot is covered by a 45-acre, 75 foot-high waste-disposal cell, entombed under layers of clay, sand, and gravel. Full article at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-a-midwestern-potato-farm-became-the-worlds-first-nuclear-waste-site
  • Psychic Archeology, Or How to Dig Up the Dead With Their Own Advice
    Frederick Bligh Bond resorted to psychic archeology because he didn’t have permission to dig up the ruins of England’s legendary Glastonbury Abbey. At least this was his explanation for why, on a November day in 1907, he made contact with the spirit of a medieval monk named Johannes. Over the course of nearly 70 seances, Bond sketched detailed plans of the Abbey, relayed by Johannes, that turned out to be largely accurate. Archaeologists were not pleased with Bond’s methods, but psychic mediums, amateur ghost hunters, and the “dark tourism” industry have capitalized on them ever since. Full article at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/psychic-archeology-or-how-to-dig-up-the-dead-with-their-own-advice

Juvenilia

Essay and performance on the history of juvenilia as a literary category, part of performance event "For Love of a Past Self" at Terrault Contemporary, Baltimore.