Ph.D., Department of English, University of California, Berkeley (2016)
B.A., Departments of English and Psychology, Brown University (2007)
Teaching and Research Interests
I specialize in global literature of the 20th and 21st centuries, with a particular focus on literary modernism. My teaching and research interests span affect theory, environmental studies, colonial history and postcolonialism, science and technology studies, World War I, and trauma theory.
In both my teaching and my scholarship, I am fascinated by the way that literary texts teach us to notice what is hiding in plain sight: routines so familiar they have become invisible, environments and ambient infrastructures so pervasive they go unrecognized, moods and social attitudes so diffuse that they cannot be localized. This interest informs courses such as “Literary Storms,” where we examine the way that background weather moves violently into the foreground, and “Literature of the Everyday,” where we consider how political and historical forces register at the level of routine daily life, in varied and uneven ways. I often ask students to think about how the technical, formal challenges that writers face speak directly to urgent social challenges. What literary forms might be capable of capturing something as insidious as toxic masculinity or as diffuse as racism? What does modernist formal transgression have to do with social transgression?
Prior to coming to Amherst, I held postdoctoral fellowships at M.I.T. and Harvard University, where I participated in the Harvard Environmental Humanities Working Group and the Mahindra Humanities Center interdisciplinary seminar on “Slow Violence.” Teaching literature at M.I.T., I was inspired by the endlessly creative cross-disciplinary pursuits of my students. Thanks to these students, I have a deeper appreciation for the way that modernist writers essentially went into the machinery of the novel and re-engineered it. I am excited to work closely with Amherst students pursuing a range of research programs in English and beyond. I love those moments of epiphany when students notice surprising similarities across different classes, but just as much, I value those moments of productive frustration that come with encountering real tension between different disciplines. In fact, my own current research on modernist ecologies grew out of a very different sort of cross-disciplinary project on modernist psychology. It was when I ran up against a limit in my psychological account of modernism that I found myself turning the project on its head, and my first book is in many ways a direct refutation of my own earlier thinking.
Current Book Project
My book, Novel Atmospheres: Air, Affect, and Literary Modernism, uncovers a new version of atmospheric modernism that has been obscured by attention to private interiority and dramatic shock. In the first few decades of the twentieth century, technological innovations such as poison gas, the airplane, the radio, and modern weather forecasting made air lethal, palpable, and legible in unprecedented ways. At the same time, modernist writers experimented with formal strategies to design a new kind of novel, one that could accommodate vast environments and diffuse moods. “We have to remember there is such a thing as atmosphere,” Virginia Woolf once wrote, and at a moment of profound environmental crisis today, my book aims to do just that.
“Joseph Conrad’s Atmospheric Modernism: Enveloping Fog, Narrative Frames, and Affective Attunement,” Studies in the Novel, Vol. 50(3): September 2018.
“Beyond Modernist Shock: Virginia Woolf’s Absorbing Atmosphere,” Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 38(4), October 2015.
“Authors and Others: The Ethics of Inhabiting in J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello,” Otherness: Essays and Studies, Vol. 4(2), April 2014.