Zea Miller

Hi, my name is Zea Miller, and I study how we recognize science fiction.

Welcome to my academic and teaching portfolio.

sf launch-01.png

I graduated from Purdue University in 2017 with a PhD in English, specializing in theory and cultural studies, semantics, and semiotics.

My research interests include science fiction, structuralism, genre theory, and philosophy, focusing on how we recognize science fiction.

I am currently a visiting assistant professor at the University of Tampa, where I teach first-year composition.

I am also the project manager for the Center for Cognition and Neuroethics at the University of Michigan-Flint, where I oversee production of the Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics.


Curriculum Vitæ 

Zea Miller
Tampa, Florida
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana
2017. English.
Primary Area: Theory and Cultural Studies.
Secondary Areas: Semantics and Semiotics.

"Becoming Science Fiction: The Purport of an Evolving Genre."
University of Michigan-Flint
Flint, Michigan
2011. English Language and Literature.

2006. French and International Studies.
American University of Paris
Paris, France
Studies Abroad
2004. International Relations.
2002. French.
Publications 2016. "The Free Slave Paradox." Semiotica (210): 57–74.

2015. "The Veneration of Violation in Sherlock." In Gender and the Modern Sherlock Holmes, edited by Nadine Farghaly, 208–222. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

2013. "Decriminalising the Lawless Moor." In Monstrous Spaces: The Other Frontier, edited by Niculae Gheran and Ken Monteith, 11–19. Witney, England: Inter-Disciplinary Press.
Presentations 2016. "Recognizing Science Fiction: Towards a Cognitive Model." Münster, Germany: The Fantastic Now.

2016. "Being and Becoming Science Fiction: Tracing the Past and Freeing its Future." Rome, Italy: Deleuze Studies Conference.

2016. "Destructive Minds: The Neuroethics of Arthur C. Clarke." Hartford, Connecticut: NEMLA.

2015. "Assembling Science Fiction: Pregeneric Book without Chapters." Portland, Oregon: PAMLA.

2014. "Messages to the Stars: The Semiotic Rhetoric of Humanity." Penryn, England: Cosmographies.

2014. "Unobserved Space: George's Disencharactered Subjectivity in Clotel." Houston, Texas: In the Interstices; Liminal Spaces, Liminal Selves.

2013. "Structural Desire in a Limited World: Revealing the Marionette Strings of Detectives." Liberec, Czech Republic: Crime and Detection in the Age of Electronic Reproduction.

2012. "Decriminalising the Lawless Moor." Oxford, England: Monstrous Geographies.
University of Tampa
Tampa, Florida
Visiting Assistant Professor
2019 – 2020 Academic Year. English and Writing Department.
Writing and Inquiry. 1 Course.
Writing and Research. 3 Courses.

Adjunct Instructor
2017 – 2018 Academic Year. English and Writing Department.
Writing and Inquiry. 2 Courses.
Writing and Research. 2 Courses.
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida
Visiting Instructor
2018 – 2019 Academic Year. English Department.
Composition I. 4 Courses.
Composition II. 5 Courses.
Professional Writing. 1 Course.
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana
Teaching Assistant
2012 – 2017. English Department.
Introduction to Composition. 10 Courses.
Center for Cognition and

University of Michigan-Flint
Flint, Michigan
Project Manager
2011 – Present

Production Editor
2011 – Present
Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics
Compos Mentis: Undergraduate Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics

Conference Organizer & Special Issue Editor
2015. Special Issue on Cognition and Neuroethics in Science Fiction. Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics 3 (3).
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana
English Department Excellence in Teaching Award
Fall 2016.

Purdue Research Foundation Grant
Summer 2016. $3,200.

College of Liberal Arts Promise Grant
Summer 2016. $1,100.

Quintilian Award for Excellence in Teaching
Fall 2014.

Quintilian Award for Excellence in Teaching
Spring 2014.

Dean's Award
Spring 2013. ICaP Writing Showcase: First Place, Instructor.

Quintilian Award for Excellence in Teaching
Fall 2012.
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana
Arkady Plotnitsky
Distinguished Professor of English

Victor Raskin
Distinguished Professor of English

Jennifer Bay
Associate Professor of English

Myrdene Anderson
Associate Professor of Anthropology
University of Michigan-Flint
Flint, Michigan
Jami L. Anderson
Professor of Philosophy

Research Statement


As a cultural theorist, I examine the interplay of structure and meaning in narratives so as to uncover systemic models and rationally interrogate both their coherence and ramifications. In projects ranging from inspecting the foundations of genres to uncovering cognitive frames in scholarship, I aim to unveil the work of cultural production. Rather than focus on revealing the concealed, I obliquely approach texts to trace the foundations, mechanisms, and complications of concealing structures. As this approach tends to stir interdisciplinary arguments, it fits well within conventional, critical outlets. Owing to a diverse education in literary theory, philosophy, semantics, and semiotics, my research projects are situated in multiple discourse communities, and I am confident that this is the key to generating solutions. Above all, my research rests on a commitment to advancing conversations. My research interests respectively align with my past, present, and future across the following themes.

Although my research interests are wide, my approach remains consistent: to reveal the work of cultural production, to explore how it operates, and more importantly to examine how it can be broken or repaired, as needed. Moreover, as someone specializing in the intersection of genre and theory, my research both has a broad scope and great portability across national borders. This international reach, coupled with an objective to foster transdisciplinary conversations, ensures that my research will be noticed and contribute to the intellectual life of the department.

Structuralism, Semantics, and Semiotics

My structural work leverages semantics and semiotics as technologies for revealing cultural models in narratives, for verifying whether such models logically and coherently work, and for exploring whether they can operate with reasonable alternative variables, thereby discovering how they can be repaired. I have two publications stemming from this approach. One is a book chapter examining the ways in which the male characters in the BBC series Sherlock interact with women in their adventures, the ultimate result of which questions the very hero worship the series cultivates. The other is an article that processes the expression “runaway slave” through several semiotic models to expose its incoherence and then explores the ways in which it is paradoxically understood, even so, as functions of racist cognitive frames issuing from white investments in the language.

Deleuzoguattarian Theory and Science Fiction

My dissertation three-dimensionally reconstructs Hjelmslev’s glossematic matrix (composed of the following quadrants: content-form, content-substance, expression-form, and expression-substance) in conjunction with Deleuze and Guattari's theoretical concepts in order to reveal the purport of science fiction (SF). I create this theoretical apparatus in the introduction. The following four chapters then examine the content-form, expression-form, content-substance, and expression-substance of SF through a Deleuzoguattarian lens. First, I question how we recognize SF if it has both no essential details and an evolving identity. The chapter shows how recognition outweighs contingent features, thereby revealing socio-cognitive frames that buttress such recognition, and ultimately proposes a cognitive model for recognizing SF. Second, I advance an argument for a new generic paradigm for SF, whereby a narrative without chapters as a generic abstract machine can be deployed to differentiate all narratives, without defining them, while still allowing genres to define themselves, which refines the theoretical framework currently buttressing SF theory. Third, I examine Clarke's The City and the Stars (1956) to advance our understanding of anoedipal bodies in the text and the fascist machines that give rise to them, which calls into question the continental death of the author who must make choices in an oedipalized world while creating one. Fourth, I explore the deployment, seizure, reclamation, and loss of power as functions of destruction across several SF texts while advancing and interrogating the implications through theory, the ultimate result of which shows that SF is becoming destructive. Finally, the conclusion synthesizes the content and expression forms and substances from the previous four chapters to show SF to be a socio-cognitive capacity to recognize prototypes through generic gravity for a future of unavoidably oedipal technological enclosures where society has moved beyond a state of control to a crisis of destruction. My dissertation disrupts the dominant contemporary conception of SF as having an identity, or being, by committing it to the ontology of becoming. Such a re-conception frees SF from retrospective determinations. Essentially, this project enters the critical conversation on SF by proposing, first, to sidestep the need for generic determinations and, second, to accept it as an evolutionary process entangling cognition, parameters, creation, and trends. I intend to transition the chapters into articles.

The Neuroethics of Science Fiction

Constant exposure to the work of neuroethical decisions in popular narratives has been culturally productive, insofar as it has largely contributed to the creation of a complicated US-American neuroculture, which at once venerates and rejects both normalizing and atypical ideas of the brain. How do we make sense of the reasonable and irrational views we have about the brain and the ethical decisions we make based on them? From neuromanipulation and eugenics and to hope and horror, both modern and futuristic narratives explore what it means to be human, and by and through the creation and solution to neuroethical dilemmas foster a neuroculture. What is emerging? What does its creation change? By entangling narratology, anthropology, English, ethics, and neuroscience, I aim to investigate the neuroculture of narratives and explore particularly how its contours have been shaped by science fiction.


Teaching Philosophy

There is an electric moment of discovery, when, in an instant, a student's perspective ignites. This experience cultivates a lingering interest in the subject that extends beyond the course. As an instructor, I structure my lectures to facilitate such moments, and I then craft my assignments to guide the students towards recognizing the material work of concepts across cultural production and the associated artifacts in their lives. For example, I have walked my students, and other classes, around campus to sites of racial hate crimes and bias, where we have discussed not only what happened and what it revealed but also read from Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege" at each site, after which I have asked the students to write a reflection piece.

My lectures are conversational and active, and they always revolve around real objects. This not only allows the class to move beyond surface details but also opens up space for students with various learning styles to engage with the content. For example, when teaching analysis, I would start by discussing a previously assigned reading by Wittgenstein to uncover particular areas to revisit in the lecture; then, doubling as an in-class activity and practical application of the reading, I would ask the students to explore popular songs for illogical, incoherent lyrics; finally, as an in-class writing exercise, I would ask the students to use logic to respond to an open-ended prompt, after which the class could compare the anonymous compositions to evaluate which techniques were effective and why. This approach would not only enable the students to absorb the theory but also learn practical techniques and gain practical experience of using them, thereby enhancing the intensity of the students' learning outcomes.

From in-class activities to flipped classrooms, on topics from popular culture to narratological genres, I structure my lectures to incorporate a wide range of experiences and examples in order to demonstrate to the students the importance of convincingly arguing and evidencing their claims. Moreover, I often take traditional methods and approach them obliquely to allow the students to connect more deeply with concepts than notes or texts alone allow. For example, when teaching argumentation, I would assign a philosophy article by Judith Jarvis Thomson that uses multiple situational and conceptual metaphors to show how analogies bolster claims. My lessons are inspired by the Robert Hutchins quote that an "education is not to reform students... or to make them expert technicians" but to "unsettle their minds, widen their horizons, inflame their intellects, [and] teach them to think straight." Collectively, these goals serve as the academic paradigm on which my teaching philosophy is based. Since this paradigm easily lends itself to the modern English curriculum without changing the expected core outcomes, I am able to foster a transformative learning environment, which I measure through process-based assignments and debriefing conversations.

While my focus as a teacher has always centered on student growth, the craft of teaching has required me to grow as well. When I began teaching, I primarily relied on lectures and discussion, but I came to understand how crucial engagement is to the production and transference of knowledge. Now, I create pre- and post-lecture materials, often leveraging popular culture, to prime and reinforce learning objectives, thereby dramatically improving the quality of in-class discussions and project deliverables. Further, I continue to refine my approach and techniques on the basis of student feedback and professional observations.

Whether teaching composition or literature, I ensure that my courses introduce crucial analytic, multimodal, and collaborative opportunities that not only fit within a broader liberal arts curriculum but also translate well into professional workplace competencies. Thus, my approach to course development interweaves effective writing with academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, and cooperative problem-solving. Above all, my courses bolster critical and lateral thinking—skills that can only be developed through discovery. 

SF is not the opposite of fantasy or realism, as others maintain, but the opposite of lifelessness itself.
sf landing-01.png

Select Student Comments


University of South Florida

  • Superb instructor. Dr. Miller's philosophy changed my entire perspective on what it means to think critically not just about literature but also the world at large. He would often provide us with nuanced and interesting insights that would not only be applicable to the assignments at hand but to other areas of life and society as well, and it was this kind of holistic, "largescale" or "ecological" (as he would put it) style of thinking which really made me admire him. In addition to his excellent teaching style, he was also a genuinely good guy. He was relatable and was sympathetic to the issues many students face during their time at college, and was always willing to help students out with their writing assignments for different classes, as well as just give general advice about life.

  • Zea is an amazing instructor and breathes life into the classroom. I enjoy his lectures and guidance on how to properly do my work and how to be successful in the future. He is always available through email and gets back to me if I ever need any assistance with an assignment. He is hands down my favorite professor I have ever worked with and would recommend him to anyone who asks for a professor who can teach people who have issues learning this subject. Throughout my years of schooling, I never had an English teacher that made learning fun and exciting nor that could teach me as this professor could. I learned more in his class than I had in my years in high school. To be honest I cannot believe he is not a fulltime professor because this man is amazing.

  • Professor Miller is literally amazing! I can tell that he genuinely cares about his students. Not only does his help guide us within the course but also within our personal lives and even our future careers or professions. I enjoyed his class so much, that I recommended him to many of my friends and classmates.


University of Tampa

  • I would honestly be speechless in class at the pure knowledge and ability of this professor. Adding that to the sweetest and most genuine personality he is hands down the best professor I could have ever asked for coming into this school.

  • Dr. Miller is hands down the most intelligent professor and person that I have ever come in contact with. He is extremely wise and knowledgeable in everything. He was especially good at relating life to writing, making us practice general things in our everyday life that made when it was time to start writing a lot easier. He is my absolute favorite teacher I have ever had and I truly believe that he is underrated as a professor at this school.

  • I would have to say this was the best class I have ever taken. Dr. Miller has such a passion for teaching us that it made it hard not to love his class. The class was never boring and that made me stay engaged. I honestly have to say it was Dr. Miller’s approach at teaching that helped me the most. He made sure what we were learning wasn’t just for in the classroom but also for other classes and for in the real world. I am doing well in my other classes because of Dr. Miller sharing insight with us not only about writing but also college in general.


Purdue University

  • Zea is probably one of the greatest teachers that I have ever had, if not the greatest. His passion, not only for his subject matter, but also his students is unmatched in any course I have seen here at Purdue, or previously. When he teaches, you get the feeling that he want you to grow from the lesson, not just learn from it. The way he facilitates in class discussion is like nothing I have seen here, and it allows the class to make a lasting meaningful connection with each other. In all honesty, the course that he teaches is looked at as a useless chore by many, but with Zea as the instructor, the class transformed from a chore to something to look forward to every day of class.

  • I can say with no doubt in my mind that Zea Miller is the best instructor I have had while at Purdue University. I have never had a teacher that is so caring, personal, practical, understanding, adaptable, respectful, respectable, or admirable as much as Zea. I am literally sad that this course is over only because I won't have Zea as a teacher again. He taught us how to think not what to think. He went out of his way so he can teach us stuff that is relevant to everyday life. I would take any class he offered because he is that great. I looked forward to his classes and any University should be honored to have him, HONORED.

  • I have probably learned more from Zea Miller this semester than I have in the past 15 years of my academic career. I have never been more inspired and motivated to take on the world and pursue my dreams and ambitions than when I was taking this class. I have never seen an instructor gain so much respect from each and every one of his students in only 4 months. Zea's teaching methods were enthralling, inspiring, and ultimately allowed me to gain the necessary tools to take on the world and my ever evolving collegiate career. I will forever be grateful to Zea for his wisdom and the passion he put into teaching this class.

Syllabi and Evaluations


University of South Florida

Fall 2018: ENC 1101 and 1102
Syllabus Assigned by Department
Evaluations: Sections 1-5

Spring 2019: ENC 1102 and 3250
Syllabus Assigned by Department
Evaluations: Sections 1-4


University of Tampa

Fall 2017: AWR 101
Evaluations: Section 1, Section 2

Spring 2018: AWR 201
Evaluations: Section 1, Section 2


Purdue University

Fall 2012: ENGL 106
Syllabus, Evaluations

Spring 2013: ENGL 106
Syllabus, Evaluations

Fall 2013: ENGL 106
Syllabus, Evaluations

Spring 2014: ENGL 106
Syllabus, Evaluations

Fall 2014: ENGL 106
Syllabus, Evaluations

Spring 2015: ENGL 106
Syllabus, Evaluations

Fall 2015: ENGL 106
Syllabus, Evaluations

Spring 2016: ENGL 106
Syllabus, Evaluations

Fall 2016: ENGL 106
Syllabus, Evaluations

Spring 2017: ENGL 106
Syllabus, Evaluations

Zea Miller

Visiting Assistant Professor
The University of Tampa