My research and teaching focus on transatlantic modernist literature, and I’m particularly interested in how literary forms interact with material contexts. The central dynamic animating all of my work is how genres—both literary genres (the novel, lyric, biography) and extra-literary ones (conventions governing the design of printed books, periodicals, illustrations, frontispieces, dust jackets, and competitive media forms like telegrams and advertisements)—are mixed and juxtaposed to create new material and textual forms. My work explores how modernist authors and publishers drew upon various textual and paratextual traditions and past forms to play upon, to appeal to, and ultimately to refashion readerly expectations.
My book project Material Formalism: Modernist Experiments in Genre, Media, and Transatlantic Print Culture argues that the formal strategies of modernist texts can only be fully understood when contextualized within the material forms and circuits of print culture through which they were produced and distributed. I argue that modernist formal experimentation was in its very essence developed in dialogue with material conditions of publication, circulation, and reading, and with the cultural associations clustered around different modes of transatlantic print culture. This book explores how rethinking modernism’s material forms through their dynamic materiality can develop new understandings of modernism, of genre, and of reading more broadly. This book argues that modern formal experiments and methods for producing, marketing, and circulating those new forms were mutually transformative and enabling. My chapters investigate how innovations in literary genre were often bound up in experiments in book design and argue for the complex ways in which material formats mediated literary styles and how shifting textual forms reshaped print contexts. This book offers new understandings of modernist literary experiments and modern print culture by reconceptualizing materiality as a dynamic form that was reshaped by modernist authors and publishers.
I’ve also begun to develop two other book-length research projects: Telegraphic Modernism: Rewiring the Modern Novel and Volume Bound: Circulation in Twentieth-Century American Poetry. In the first project, I examine the ways in which modern authors including Henry James, E.M. Forster, and Ford Madox Ford invoke telegraphy—with its public circulation, its networks of transmission, and its strange coded idiom—to re-conceptualize the modern novel. The second project looks at intersections of race, sexuality, gender, and publishing history through the site of the volume in twentieth-century American poetry. Volume Bound argues that Gwendolyn Brooks, Hart Crane, Langston Hughes, and Elizabeth Bishop—poets most often read in de-contextualizing anthologies—explore alternative cover designs, front matter, organization, and typographical layouts to map out new poetic geographies in the volume format.
I bring the archival resources and central questions from my research into the classroom. In my time at Oberlin, I’ve designed and taught courses focused on Modern Novels, Modernist Women Writers, Material Modernism and Print Culture, Visual Theory, “Bristling with Images: Learning to Read Illustrated Books,” and a freshman seminar on “Modernism as Media.”