Leon J Hilton-headshot BW.jpg

Leon J. Hilton is Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University. Before joining the faculty at Brown he was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his PhD with distinction from the Department of Performance Studies at New York University in 2016 and his BA from the College of Letters at Wesleyan University in 2007.

His research focuses on modern and contemporary theatre and performance, with particular attention to the way these fields overlap with disability studies and neurodiversity, feminist and queer theory, critical race studies, and psychoanalysis. He also writes on issues of embodiment, performance, and mediation in contemporary art. 

His current book project, entitled Neurodivergence and the Errancies of Performance, examines cultural critiques of dominant scientific, medical, and social attitudes towards mental disability and neurological difference since 1945—from midcentury critics of the asylum to the contemporary discourse of neurodiversity—across a range of experimental practices and aesthetic forms (including theater, documentary film, and media and performance art). This research grows out of his PhD thesis, which received NYU's Michael Kirby Award for Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation. 

His writing appears in GLQ, African American ReviewThe Los Angeles Review of Books, Art In America, and TDR/The Drama Review, where he was Managing Editor from 2011–2013. With Tanja Aho and Liat Ben-Moshe, he is the co-editor of a forum in the June 2017 issue of American Quarterly on the emerging field of critical mad studies.

His work has been supported by a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant and a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship. He has previously taught in the Department of Performance Studies at NYU, the program in Critical Theory and Social Justice at Occidental College, and the Cinema Studies program at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Selected Publications

"'The Bright Shapes Were Going': Disability, Neurodivergence, and Theatrical Form
in Elevator Repair Service's The Sound and the Fury"

Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies

"Avonte's Law: Autism, Wandering, and the Racial Surveillance of Neurological Difference"
African American Review

"In the Flesh: Mark Bradford in the US Pavilion"
Art in America

"Madness Is Congatious: Language and Violence in the Goodman Theatre's 2666"
TDR/The Drama Review

"Mapping the Wander Lines" 
Los Angeles Review of Books

"Presence, Rhetoric, Difference: Jérôme Bel and Theatre HORA’s Disabled Theater" 
TDR/The Drama Review

"The Horse in My Flesh": Transpecies Performance and Affective Athleticism 
GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies

"Xiu Xiu and the Cause of Desire"
Journal of Popular Music Studies

Book review—Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, Queer Affect by Mel Y. Chen 

"X-Ray of Civilization: David Wojnarowicz and the Politics of Representation"
Social Text Blog