Research

My research crosses several distinct fields. While my first book project is anchored in nineteenth-century writers and literary criticism, it also takes up work in history, sociology, religion, gender, and American studies. I examine how a handful of singularly charismatic American women—chiefly Mary Moody Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Emily Dickinson, and Alice James—differently realized their literary ambitions through what I call the “antinomian sociability” of their lives and writing. The strange partnerships they invent with select others, I claim, have broad implications for how we think about collaborative authorship, literary achievement, and the tangled legacies of Puritanism and exceptionalism in American literary cultures.

A version of the book’s chapter on Dickinson appeared in Texas Studies in Literature and Language (2013); it was awarded the Tony Hilfer Memorial Prize for the journal’s best article of the year (2013). A version of another chapter, on Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson, recently appeared in ESQ (2015). I’ve also presented a slew of unrelated papers on other figures both within the antebellum period (Melville, Douglass, Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne) and on either side of it (Benjamin Franklin, William Byrd, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison).

On another front, I’m convinced that we must express what we achieve in college classrooms to wider audiences. I’ve given a number of talks at universities and public forums that aim to do some of this work. Also in this vein is the “The Pen and the Drone,” an essay in this volume edited by Joe Janangelo; the essay chronicles the challenges I faced in establishing West Point’s Writing Fellows Program and Mounger Writing Center as well as the potential of these initiatives to transform cross-curricular writing education amid high-speed lives at the Academy and beyond. In between promoting the work of these initiatives, I’m working on shorter essays that explore, respectively, the value of multimodal projects in the public humanities for students in introductory composition and literature courses and ethical dilemmas in Writing Center work.