Jacob Henry Leveton studies global modern and contemporary art, literature, critical theory, and ecology from the 18th century through the present. He is completing a Ph.D. in Art History at Northwestern University. Prior he earned a master's degree in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Oregon. Leveton has been a visiting scholar in the Department of English at the University of Chicago and in the Institut du Monde Anglophone ("Institute of the Anglophone World") at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. He has delivered invited lectures at Mount Holyoke College and the University of Colorado Boulder. Leveton's essay “William Blake and Art against Surveillance” appears in William Blake and the Art of Aquarius (Princeton University Press, 2017). The volume was named to "The Best Art Books of 2017" by New York Times art critic Holland Cotter. Leveton's article “William Blake’s חנוך (‘Enoch’) Lithograph: Producing the Theme of Self-Annihilation, Resisting the Politics of the Napoleonic Wars" appears in Essays in Romanticism. His research has been recognized and supported through awards, grants, and fellowships by: the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, the Northwestern Paris Program in Critical Theory, the Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, the Evan Frankel Foundation, the University of California, Berkeley, the Fondation des États-Unis in Paris, and the Yale Center for British Art.
Leveton principally examines issues that the emergent paradigm of “The Anthropocene” raises for art history; the epoch wherein human activity becomes the principle determining force defining the earth’s climate and geology. Drawing upon a broad interdisciplinary training in Art and Architectural History, English Language and Literature, Classics, Music, Philosophy, and Cultural Theory, Leveton’s research and teaching span paintings, prints, the built environment, poetry and poetics, and sound. His current scholarship engages with the strategies and different iconologies artists have devised across the media to represent environmental change associated with extractive industry, fossil fuel-based forms of pollution, and atomic energy.
Leveton's first book, based partly on his dissertation, is titled “William Blake's Radical Ecology: Communities of Resistance.”
The book represents the first study of the English romantic artist and poet William Blake to take seriously his critique of the British Industrial Revolution. In it, Leveton demonstrates how Blake’s composite art combined both image and text to contest the classicizing architecture, advancing technologies, and capitalist economics of the first coal-powered sites of mass manufacture. Parts of the project have been presented at the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, and the International Conference on Romanticism.
He is also currently writing two articles. The first, near completion, examines metaphors of the digital and sustainability in the work of the contemporary architect Alisa Andrasek, the English alternative rock pioneers Radiohead, and the American post-hardcore band Thrice. The second, at the preliminary stages of research and writing, looks at the work of the transnational Lagos-born and European-based Nigerian artists Otobong Nkanga and Emeka Ogboh, as each engages with the deleterious environmental effects and implicit financialized politics of petroleum production in the Niger River Delta. Leveton presented the first component of the project at the Resistance in the Spirit of Romanticism symposium at the University of Colorado Boulder in September.
In addition to his scholarship and teaching, Leveton retains broader commitments to community building across disciplines, institutions, and publics. Connecting his ecocritical research to policy engagement, he served as the North American “Youth Delegate” for the Summit for Local Elected Leaders at the United Nations COP 21 Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015, and coordinated a series of public humanities lectures and classical music program in support of the COP 21 for the Fondation des États-Unis between 2015-2016. From Autumn 2016 to Spring 2017, he worked as a volunteer for artist, activist, and community organizer Nance Klehm’s the Ground Rules and Social Ecologies projects. The experience instilled in him the importance of embodied learning inspired by humanities research but that extends beyond the walls of the academy. In this avenue of his work, Leveton invested his time in building community through soil centers, drawing in stakeholders in the private restaurant industry in Chicago to provide organic waste to support compost projects, soil remediation and restoration, and local agriculture in the South and West Side Neighborhoods of Woodlawn and North Lawndale.
In his sustained academic service, Leveton aims to build and promote project-based multi-disciplinary inter-institutional partnerships between public and private universities, museums, and diverse funding partners to amplify resources, outreach, and impacts. In 2018, he was co-organizer of the significant critical theory and contemporary art conference Why Do Animal Studies?: The Turn to the Quasi-, Post-, Anti-, Non-, Para-, which was jointly hosted between Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. The event drew
scholars from across the US, UK, Germany, and Australia—as well as the interest and participation of the Chicago art practice, curatorial, and animal rights communities. Since 2016, Leveton has served as a founding member of the « Ventre à Terre Collective », a group of scholars of romanticism committed to connecting critical historical studies to interdisciplinary forms of creative collaboration and curatorial practice in the present. Following a summer 2018 residency in the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts, their initial mixed-media pamphlet/'zine was published for the Resistance in the Spirit of Romanticism symposium. The Collective's first museum exhibition, created with undergraduates in Critical Social Thought at Mount Holyoke College, opened at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in January.