I specialize in British Literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My research interests include the history and theory of the novel, the history of English as a discipline, theories of canonization, the origins of modernism, book history, literature and religion, and gender studies. My current book project, Feeling Democratic: Pedagogy, Bildung, and Form in British Fiction 1870-1930, explores how novelists engage with a version of the nineteenth-century idealist aesthetic which conceived of aesthetic education not as the individual’s cultivation of private subjectivity but as a collective, democratic process. I argue that Charles Kingsley, Mrs. Humphry Ward, Walter Besant, Oscar Wilde, Vernon Lee, H. G. Wells, and Virginia Woolf transform character, plot, description, and narration in ways that allow them to replace strategies that represent Bildung through the growth of internal subjectivity with forms that depict Bildung as the collective process of national spiritual development. I claim that what has been previously characterized as bad style, such as Wells's and Besant's reliance on caricature and type or on simplified prose, were actually deliberate formal innovation shaped by, and in the service of promoting, a democratic aesthetic education. Authors such as Besant, Lee, and Wells have been neglected, I argue, because twentieth-century practices of canonization shared high modernism’s commitment to difficulty as a marker of literary value and to private subjectivity as the locus of true aesthetic experience. The cost of this rejection has been not only a distorted view of the emergence of modernism and the relationship between Victorian and modern literature but also a systematic obscuring of the democratic origins of literary studies. A reevaluation of our discipline’s initial rejection of democratic forms of idealism, and of the novelists who championed it, will help us re-envision literary study not as the discipline of self-cultivation but as an ethos of communication.
My courses examine the intersections between literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and England's social and institutional histories. Recent courses taught at Hamilton and Johns Hopkins include "Marketing the Novel," "Anglo-American Modernism," "Dandies, Decadents, and New Women," "The Country House and the British Novel," "Literature, Art, and Religion," "Modernist Women Writers," and "Coming of Age Novels." In the classroom, I attend to intersections between form and history by merging practices of close reading with an examination of texts alongside period material, such as paintings, magazines, newspapers, reviews, maps, advertisements, architecture, and other contemporary artifacts in order to investigate how British literature contends with important social questions that remain unresolved today.