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David Alff

Assistant Professor David Alff

Assistant Professor, Director of Graduate Placement
Office: 441 Clemens Hall
Phone number: (716) 645-0695
E-mail address:


17th and 18th-century Anglophone writing and performance, infrastructure, public works, projects and projection

Courses Taught


  • ENG 523: Improvement in Eighteenth-Century British Culture
  • ENG455: “Highways, Sewers, Ports: Building Modern Britain 1660 – 1820,” Spring 2013
  • ENG317: “18th Century Literature: Restoration Drama,” Spring 2013
  • ENG318: “18th Century Literature: Fiction,” Fall 2012
  • ENG319a: “18th Century Literature: Poetry,” Fall 2012

Works in Progress

I am writing a book called The Wreckage of Intentions: Projects in British Literature 1660-1730. This work investigates the idea of projects, concrete yet incomplete schemes for advancing British society during the 1600 and 1700s. Then, as now, a "project" was a delimited effort to achieve some goal, be it the construction of a bridge, the relief of the poor, or the composition of a poem.  The word meant both a unit of human endeavor and a genre of writing for proposing new enterprise through specific literary devices and persuasive strategies. By attending to the rhetorical, material, and performative aspects of a broad range of proposals, my research argues for a more comprehensive British historiography attentive to old plans for futures that could have been.

Selected Publications

* "Swift's Solar Gourds and the Rhetoric of Projection," in Eighteenth-Century Studies 47.3 (Spring 2014)

* "Why No One Can Mend the Slough of Despond." The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 54.3 (Fall 2013)

* "Annus Mirabilis in 1688: Repackaging a Year of Wonders."Restoration: Studies in English Literature 35.2.

* "Unearthing a "Universal Correspondence: Defoe's Roman Roads Project."Topographies of the Imagination: New Approaches to Daniel Defoe, ed. Katherine Ellison, Kit Kincade, and Holly Faith Nelson (AMS Press, February 2014)

* "Yesterday's Tomorrow Today: Baltimore and the Promise of Reform." Down to the Wire: Urban Decay and American Television, eds. Tiffany Potter and C.W. Marshall (Continuum Press, November 2009)