Shelton Waldrep is an academic, writer, and cultural critic whose major works have often been at the forefront of cultural studies and led the way for other academic and non-scholarly work on several topics. While a graduate student at Duke University he co-authored Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World (part of the series Post-Contemporary Interventions, edited by Fredric Jameson and Stanley Fish), which was an analysis of the Walt Disney World theme park near Orlando, Florida. This publication, and the excerpts of it that appeared in the journal South Atlantic Quarterly, garnered a great deal of attention in The Chronicle of Education and elsewhere and was reviewed widely. The book was reprinted in Great Britain by Rivers Oram Press. While an assistant professor in the English department at the University of Southern Maine he published The Seventies: The Age of Glitter in Popular Culture (Routledge) with legendary editor Bill Germano. Bringing together a number of young academics (Cindy Patton, Anne-Lise Francois, Chris Castiglia, Jennifer Devere Brody) and non-academics (KC of the Sunshine Band, Greil Marcus, Vince Aletti) all writing on the seventies as an undertheorized period (especially in regard to US culture), the volume was mentioned in the New Yorker. Material in the book has been used frequently in courses on aspects of seventies culture (seventies music and film, for example) and has paved the way for other historical and cultural work on the 1970s. Waldrep followed this publication with another edited volume, a special issue of SLI (Studies in the Literary Imagination) on the Victorian period. Entitled Inauthentic Pleasures: Victorian Fakery and the Limitations of Form, it brought together high-profile Victorianists to work on the intersection between the notion of authenticity and simulacra in Victorian culture. Contributors included C.D. Blanton, Natalie M. Houston, Carolyn Lesjak, Jonathan Loesberg, Peter Melville Logan, and Andrew H. Miller. Waldrep's next book, The Aesthetics of Self-Invention: Oscar Wilde to David Bowie (University of Minnesota Press), discussed Wilde as the type of a late-twentieth century performative paradigm. The first half of the book deals with Wilde and his career, while the second half takes up Wilde's influence on an array of exemplary postmodern figures, including Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, and especially, David Bowie. The work on Bowie has been influential and often cited (in Wikipedia, for example) as serious work on Bowie as an artistic influence has appeared. Waldrep's contributions to the Disney book have continued to grow in influence as well as more and more critics have written on theme parks, especially in regard to architecture and the built environment. Waldrep has now completed a book that is to some extent an outgrowth of this work and is entitled The Dissolution of Place: Architecture, Identity, and the Body (part of the series Ashgate Studies in Architecture). This work takes up issues on the margins of architecture, such as architecture and the temporal (theme parks, Las Vegas, film), architecture and gender/sexuality (Philip Johnson), and architecture and racial identity (Native-American casinos). This book, like all of his others, is marked by interdisciplinarity and an interrogation of the methods and content of cultural studies.
Waldrep has published poetry, criticism, and reviews on a number of other topics in journals and edited collections in the US, UK, and Canada. He was assistant editor for The Cultures of Globalization edited by Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi (Duke) and of the Lesbian and Gay Studies Newsletter for the MLA. He has frequently been interviewed on a variety of subjects and is associated with a generation of public intellectuals who came out of Duke University in the 1990s. He grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he attended the University of Alabama for his undergraduate and first graduate degree, an MFA in creative writing. He continued his education at Duke University where he studied with Fredric Jameson and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and earned his MA and PhD. He is currently Professor of English at the University of Southern Maine.