Stevi Costa


Stevi Costa

Ph.D., English, University of Washington
M.A., English, University of Washington
B.A., English and Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara

Office: UW1-391


Being in a classroom with my students is my favorite part of university life. I am energized by the critical conversations that emerge in classroom spaces. I challenge my students to participate in conversations that examine artistic products like literature, film, theatre, television, and performance art. I ask them to think about these objects in relationship to the world in which they were produced, and to discuss how these cultural products might reveal, conceal, complicate, critique, or perpetuate particular ideologies and -isms. I treat the body as a key site of inquiry in both my teaching and research, inquiring into processes by which bodies are constructed as American, and how bodies participate or are denied participation in American literature, history, and lived experience. I teach my students about diverse bodies and how the concept of the human is formed through competing cultural discourses which tell us which bodies matter, and which bodies do not. I hope that by discussing these things, my students begin to understand the power of putting theory into practice and learn that they too have voices (and bodies) that matter.

Recent Courses Taught

BIS 387 Women in American Literature
BIS 206 Engaging Literary Arts
BWRIT 134 Expository Composition
BWRIT 135 Research Writing


My primary research areas include late nineteenth and twentieth century American literature, feminist disability theory, performance and the body. I am particularly interested in the relays between the late 19th century and the contemporary moment, and investigate these relationships through interdisciplinary methodologies, drawing on cultural studies, feminist theory, queer theory, disability theory, and performance studies. Although my background and training is in English literature, I study a wide range of materials, including fiction, drama, performance art, and other media to explore the intersections of gender, sexuality, ability and other theories of embodiment. I am also a performing artist and bring my knowledge of the literary canon to bear on the artistic products I create and perform. ­

My current research project, which evolves from my dissertation, critiques the co-option of freakishness as an identity and aesthetic practice within the dominant systems of white heteropatriarchal capital. My book project on this subject, Damn Everything but the Circus, examines the use of circus aesthetics in contemporary popular literature and culture from the late 20th and 21st century. Circus aesthetics, broadly, refers to settings, characters, and visual signifiers that relate to the traditional American circuses and sideshows of the late 19th and early 20th century, and which generally confer a wide array of variously of raced, gendered, and abled bodies united under the inclusive nature of the circus tent. Questions that drive this project are: Why do we remain so fascinated by the circus, even as traditional American circuses have disappeared with the 2018 closure of Ringling Bros? Who makes use of circus aesthetics and for what end? How does the use of circus aesthetics make visible class, race, gender, ability and other power dynamics? How does it complicate them? How does it erase them?

Selected Publications

  • “Dress Your Professor: Fashion as Pedagogy.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics. Ed. Katie Manthey.
  • “American Horror Story: Capital, Counterculture and the Freak” European Journal of American Culture, 38(1), 1 March 2019, pp. 71-82(12). Eds. Harriet Earle and Jessica Clark.
  • “Foreword: Disability, Metonymic Disruption, and the Gothic.” Studies in Gothic Fiction, 6(1), pp.4–6, 1 March 2019. Eds. Laura Kremmel and Enrique Arjuria Ibarra.
  • Memorial Tattoos and the Fogginess of War in Seattle Rep’s Last of the Boys.” March 1, 2019 for DeConstruct, an online journal of intersectional performance critique. Ed. Steph Hankinson.
  • Bastard from a Basket: Deafness in There Will Be Blood.” April 16, 2018 for In Media Res “Paul Thomas Anderson” week. In Media Res is a collaborative Media Commons project for online scholarship. Ed. Geoffrey Daniel Henry.
  • Consuming Horror on American Horror Story: Freak Show.” December 4, 2017 for In Media Res “American Horror Story” week. In Media Res is a collaborative Media Commons project for online scholarship. Ed. Geoffrey Daniel Henry.
  • “Accio Burlesque! Performing Potter Fandom Through Nerdlesque” Playing Harry Potter. Ed. Lisa Brenner. McFarland & Co. 2015.