My research focuses on the ways in which narratives and discursive practices frame landscapes and shape human interactions with environments. I am interested in how individuals, institutions, and corporations use and participate in stories that foster affective connections to local, national, and international landscapes. As a comparative literature scholar working in the Environmental Humanities, with strong backgrounds in American Studies, Cultural Studies, and Animal Studies, I have focused my work on the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States, while drawing on transnational histories, currents, and influences. This has allowed me to integrate my interests in environmental studies and narrative studies with my training as a creative writer in developing an inter-disciplinary comparative framework for examining how narrative and rhetorical practices structure our experiences of nature.
Ph.D., University of Michigan, Comparative Literature
M.F.A., Stonecoast MFA Program, Poetry
B.A., Bowdoin College, English
Work Shared in CORE
“Analogical Animals: Thinking through Difference in Animalities and Histories,” Configurations Volume 22, number 3 (Fall 2014): 307-335.
My current book project, “Instituting Wonder: Nature and National Belonging in U.S. Cultural History” examines how discourses of “wonder” have narrated U.S.-American relationships to land and become institutionalized in national, local, and commercial parks. By “wonder,” I mean an arresting emotional response of awe, which I consider to be bound up in rhetorical practices. For example, I trace the ways in which discourses of wonder were central to the writings of late nineteenth-century conservation pioneers such as John Muir, James Audubon, Theodore Roosevelt, and Gifford Pinchot. I argue that discourses of wonder subsequently became “nationalized” through Northern Pacific Railway’s “Wonderland” advertising campaign, launched in the 1880s to promote service to Yellowstone National Park. The campaign capitalized on the success of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and used magical, dreamlike images of Alice to advertise the “new wonderland” of Yellowstone and to promote wonder as the framework for understanding American landscapes. The project shows that this nationalization of wonder and conservation in the context of tourism has continued to shape the language we use to advocate for environmental conservation and justice through the wilderness movements of the 1960s, and in the development of environmental history as a discipline. The two other major case studies in the book examine zoos and Disney’s theme parks in showing that wonder experiences and rhetoric have shaped a particularly American experience of the environment that has both fueled activist movements for justice and produced widespread consumerist complacency.
MLA, ASLE, SLSA