Coughlin Hall, 344
I specialize in eighteenth-century British literature and culture, with particular interests in law and literature, gender studies, transatlantic studies, and the history of the novel. My research and teaching examine the ways in which imaginative writers engaged questions of justice and rights that were of broad public concern in the Enlightenment. My approach to these questions draws from my interdisciplinary background; I received a Ph.D. in English Literature and an M.A. in American Studies from Yale and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Before coming to Marquette, I held postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard and Stanford.
My book manuscript, Public Vows: Fictions of Marriage in the English Enlightenment, examines the ways in which novelists responded to and participated in debates about the contractual nature of the nuptial tie. Like many legal and social thinkers of their day, the book argues, writers including Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Frances Burney, and Mary Wollstonecraft imagine marriage as a public institution subject to regulation by church and state rather than a private agreement between two free individuals. Even as novelists shore up the state's control over marriage, however, they offer subtle critiques of the forms that its regulations take. In uncovering writers' complex engagements with the marriage controversies of the Enlightenment, Public Vows reveals the centrality of nuptial law to early fiction, while challenging accounts of a division between public and private life. My essays examine related questions concerning freedom, agency, and obligation. I have written on George Eliot's treatment of promising in the light of changing legal and philosophical ideas about consensual obligations, for example, and am currently completing essays that consider problems of criminal responsibility in Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. New projects include a book on feeling and ethics in eighteenth-century fiction, and a study of gender and violence in the transatlantic Enlightenment.
“Binding the Will: George Eliot and the Practice of Promising,” ELH 75 (2008): 565-602.
“‘A Strange Opposition’: The Portrait of a Lady and the Divorce Debates,” The Henry James Review 27 (2006): 156-174.
“Moll Flanders and English Marriage Law,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 17 (2005): 157-182.
“Wicked Women and Veiled Ladies: Gendered Narratives of the McFarland-Richardson Tragedy,” Yale Journal of Law and Feminism 9 (1997): 255-303.