Visiting Assistant Professor in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Lecturer in English and Creative Writing, Emory University

Ph.D. in English with a certificate in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, GA  (2018)
B.A. in English and Creative Writing, Wellesley College (2008)

Book project: The Poetics of Ethics in the Anthropocene

The Poetics of Ethics in the Anthropocene brings together gender and queer theory, affect studies, and critical race theory to argue that transatlantic lyric poetry can help us imagine a capacious ethical framework for our epoch. The project stems from my dissertation, which focused on ecological ethics and grew from the discord between ecological critical theory and twentieth-century lyric poetry. While discourses like posthumanism have tended to critique lyric poetry for its anthropocentrism, I argue that lyric offers an opportunity to conceptualize ecological relations from within the complicities that our position as human beings on Earth beget. Poetic discourse is therefore a crucial resource for what has come to be called the “Anthropocene,” which I treat as a critical framework founded upon racialized, gendered, and colonial violence. To live in the Anthropocene is to live within the structures of such violence; the concept challenges us not simply to renounce destructive systems, but to find a method for contending with them. In The Poetics of Ethics in the Anthropocene, I use the term Anthropocene to refer not solely to environmental sites of trauma, but also to the racial and gendered traumas imbricated in the epoch. Examining the work of a range of poets—including Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Lucille Clifton, Alice Oswald, Tracy K. Smith, Craig Santos Perez, and Mai Der Vang—I show how poetry offers a range of strategies for residing within the classical ethical question: How is one to live? 

Academic Peer-Reviewed Articles

“Anthropocene Ethics and its Lapses: Lyric Eros, Racism, and the Example of Sylvia Plath’s Bees.” Under review. 

Much recent work in ecology studies argues that eros decenters the human. Using Sylvia Plath’s bee poems as a case study, this essay argues that grappling with eros in poetry (often evoked, but rarely considered, in such discourse) yields an ecological ethics capable of contending with our ugliest ideologies. Although Plath’s poems are replete with interspecies desire, that desire is intertwined with racist rhetoric. To read Plath’s bee poems for an ethics of eros is to confront their racism. This essay argues that ethics in the Anthropocene—thought to have originated with cross-planetary racial violence—requires this confrontation.

 “Of New Calligraphy: Seamus Heaney, Planetarity, and Lyric’s Uncanny Space-Walk.” Cultural Critique 104 (Summer 2019). 

In the middle of the twentieth century, the Western cultural imaginary transitioned between two formulations of the uncanny. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak describes this shift as one “from vagina to planet”: due to the newfound view of Earth from space in the late 1960s, Freud’s conceptualization of the body of the cisgender, childbearing woman as an uncanny figure shifts to a pervasive sense that the uncanny signifier par excellence is in fact the planet Earth itself. This essay interrogates this shift and finds its most fruitful revision takes place in poetics. First, it reads the cultural moment in which both uncannies have vibrant and interdependent lives in print and media culture. To explore the critical potential of their interdependence, this paper then turns to the work of Seamus Heaney and finds that his poetry engages both figurations from the beginning to the end of his career. In his bog poems in particular—composed during a time that dovetails with the uncannies’ cultural lives while also inflected with his interest in bogs as ecological phenomena—Heaney collapses the distance between the uncannies, enmeshing them to explore poetry’s potential for creating uncanny estrangement, as well as the consequences of such estrangement on ideas of kinship. In turn, in his post-midcentury work, Heaney transforms both Freud’s argument that the uncanny is an aesthetic concern and Spivak’s claim that it is a hermeneutic one into a suggestion that it is a chief concern of poetry. Noticing that in his later work, Heaney incorporates the apostrophic “O” into his sense of the uncanny, the author suggests that Heaney’s work positions lyric as the ultimate uncanny space. His work thus calls upon us to re-envision the nature of lyric engagement with materiality and embodiment.

The image behind the overlay: Non je ne regrette rien by Wangechi Mutu. See it in full, and full color, here.