Ph.D., UCLA (1992)
M.A., UCLA (1990)
B.A., Stanford (1987)

Teaching and Research Interests

In addition to sharing in the teaching of staff-taught courses like “Engaging Literature” and “Reading the Novel,” I teach courses that emerge from my training in Americanist literary criticism and my shifting interests in certain transhistorical phenomena, such as trauma, extravagance, and the relationship between humanity and what lies outside (or inside) it. Since coming to Amherst in 2012, I have taught “Hawthorne, Melville, and Literary Friendship,” “Poe, Faulkner, and the Gothic,” “Narratives of Suffering,” “American Extravaganzas,” and “Literature and the Nonhuman World.” My recent scholarship has been on the relationship between mid-nineteenth-century American conceptions of the Maori and the writing of The Last of the Mohicans and Moby-Dick; on the strange pleasurableness of stigma vulnerability in passing novels; on the stimulating effect of nonhuman beings, especially trees, in the work of Herman Melville; on plagiarism as a compositional aesthetic in the work of William Wells Brown and Pauline Hopkins; and on the value of face-to-face education. I care about reading the kinds of things that, in Thoreau’s words, we have “to stand on tip-toe to read and devote our most alert and wakeful hours to”; about keeping the relationship between intellectual and other-than-intellectual life as vital as possible; and about making the classroom a place where we can think things that we couldn’t have thought under other circumstances—where the special urgencies of literature and film make it possible for us to say, freely and forcefully, things that we didn’t even know that we wanted and needed to say.

Selected Publications

Plagiarama! William Wells Brown and the Aesthetics of Attractions (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016)

Whipscars and Tattoos: The Last of the Mohicans, Moby-Dick, and the Maori (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Melville and Aesthetics, co-edited with Samuel Otter (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

The Sign of the Cannibal: Melville and the Making of a Postcolonial Reader (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998)

“Turn It Up: Affects, Structures of Feeling, and Face-to-Face Education,” in Turns of Event: American Literary Studies in Motion, ed. Hester Blum, forthcoming from University of Pennsylvania Press

“The Wind of Words: Plagiarism and Intertextuality in Of One Blood,” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists 3 (2015): 67-87

“Melville and the Nonhuman World,” in The New Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, ed. Robert S. Levine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 10-21

“The Plagiarist’s Craft: Theatricality and Fugitivity in Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom,” PMLA 128.4 (2013): 907-22

“James Fenimore Cooper and the Invention of the Passing Novel,” American Literature 84 (2012): 1-29

Selected Awards and Honors

Foerster Prize for Best Essay in American Literature, awarded by the American Literature Section of the Modern Language Association, 2006

Cohen Prize for Best Essay on Melville, awarded by the Melville Society, 2006

Parker Prize for Best Essay in PMLA, awarded by the Modern Language Association, 2002