I am a scholar of the nineteenth-century United States, and I work across the fields of literary history, Black Studies, law and literature, and gender and sexuality studies. I aim to situate literature in its historical context while understanding how that context relates to our present.
Inheritance, in addition to being a plot device and a legal mechanism, is also a narrative form. In my dissertation, I study how it provided a means for nineteenth-century US writers to describe the past’s influence on the present. In historical novels, romances, sentimental writing, and realist fiction by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Chesnutt, Harriet Jacobs, Herman Melville, and others, narratives of inheritance posit an agency possessed by the past, and these writers sought to use this past for their own ends. The material and the ideological, the fictional and the factual intertwine in literary forms. My dissertation-in-progress—Inheriting the Future: Narrative and the Past in the Nineteenth-Century United States—engages work on law and literature, threading insights from Black studies, book history, and political economy. Inheritance’s literary history provides a case study in the variety of ways that language and narrative affect the world, rather than merely reflect it.
I am in the early stages of a second book project that looks broadly at the way that narratives of conversion—the belief in one's ability to change from one thing to another—structure a wide range of cultural and political aspects of American life.
With Dana Seitler and Jordan Alexander Stein, I am editing a special issue of Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies on Melville's Queer Afterlives. I will publish an essay on his novel Pierre and the problem of the American family.
I am currently at work on a trade book that examines the way that horror cinema of the past fifty years gives voice to understated and ordinary horrors.
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