Jonathan Leal

Assistant Professor of English
Jonathan Leal
Pronouns He / Him / His Email

Research & Practice Areas

Music and Sound Studies; Transdisciplinarity / Undisciplinarity; Comparative Media Poetics; Relational Studies of Race and Ethnicity; Chicanx and Latinx Media and Literatures; Modernity/Coloniality; U.S.-Mexico Border Aesthetics and Narratives; Speculative Inquiry


Jonathan Leal is a Latino author, composer, and interdisciplinary theorist who studies the long echoes of colonial encounter. Born and raised in the South Texas border region known as the Rio Grande Valley, Leal works as an artist-scholar to create research projects focused on borders and empire, technology and aesthetics, and creative and political practices. 

Leal’s scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in the Journal of Popular Music Studies, ASAP/Journal, Critical Studies in Improvisation, Rio Bravo, Journal of the Society for American Music, Jazz & Culture, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Oxford Handbook of Pop Music, and elsewhere; his essays and criticism have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Air/Light Magazine, The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review of Books, San Francisco Classical Voice, and elsewhere. In 2018–2019, he was an Alan Cheuse Emerging Critic with the National Book Critics Circle, as well as an AMS-50 Fellow with the American Musicological Society. He is currently an Associate Editor of the Journal of Popular Music Studies, as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Book Critics Circle, focusing on nonfiction and criticism. 

Leal’s recent creative work has included sound and music design for Cherríe Moraga’s The Mathematics of Love; a collaborative compilation album, Wild Tongue, featuring music by nine Latinx bands from the South Texas borderlands; a collaborative, speculative transmedia cast album entitled Futuro Conjunto; a six-part jazz suite exploring post-utopian sentiment, entitled After Now; as well as several singles and collaboratively composed musical compositions. His musical collaborations have been featured in Pitchfork, Democracy Now!, Texas Monthly, Remezcla, Latino USA, Bandcamp, and elsewhere.

Leal is the author of Dreams in Double Time: On Race, Freedom, and Bebop (Duke University Press 2023) and the co-editor of Cybermedia: Explorations in Science, Sound, and Vision (Bloomsbury 2021). His next book project, Wild Tongue: A Borderlands Mixtape, is under contract at Duke University Press.



  • Ph.D. Modern Thought & Literature, Stanford University, 2020
  • M.A. English, University of North Texas, 2014
  • B.A. English, University of North Texas, 2012
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Southern California, 2022 –

    PostDoctoral Appointments

    • Postdoctoral Scholar, Society of Fellows in the Humanities, University of Southern California, 2020 – 2022