Dissertation Completion Fellow, Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry,  Emory University

Ph.D. in English, Emory University, Atlanta, GA  (Expected 2018)
Graduate certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

B.A. in English and Creative Writing, Wellesley College (2008)

My research interests include poetry and poetics, British and American literature of the long twentieth century, and critical theory. I am especially interested in affect and emotion, ecology and posthumanism, and ethics and rhetoric. 

Dissertation: “Signs of Feeling Everywhere: The Posthuman Ethics of Lyric Emotion”

“Signs of Feeling Everywhere” begins from the premise that we have yet to conceptualize a mode of ethical relation with our ecologies that accommodates a capacious view of human emotion regarding nonhumans and takes as a given the decline of Earth. Toward this goal, I place contemporary posthumanist ethics in conversation with transatlantic lyric poetry after 1850. As a theoretical orientation that critiques the idea that humans are bounded and coherent subjects governed by cognition, posthumanism is not often seen as compatible with lyric poetry, which has traditionally been read as a mode of writing that almost exclusively speaks to and about humans and their experiences. Ethical theories that emerge out of posthumanism take this discord one step further, positioning lyric poems as examples of unethical and outmoded expressions of anthropocentrism. I, however, argue that lyric poetry’s entanglements with systems of thought that are ethically suspect in fact make it an ideal resource with which to think through the question of how to find and forge moments of ethical engagement from within systems that seem to negate even the conditions of possibility for ethics. Deriving its theoretical core primarily from the writings of Michel Foucault and the history of lyric poetics, the project argues that transatlantic lyric poetry from Walt Whitman to Alice Oswald can help us imagine ethics in the anthropocene. 

Committee: Laura Otis (chair), Lynne Huffer, John Johnston, Walter Kalaidjian, and Katherine Hayles (external member, Duke University)

Academic Peer-Reviewed Articles

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

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.