When I applied to graduate school I didn’t know which subfield of English I would choose for my area of specialization. Contemporary British literature drew me, but so did early American literature. As a high school student, and then again in college, I had gone to England to study, and in my mid-twenties I went back there to work. England felt like my second home, more familiar to me than most of the United States.
A two-month road trip on my way to graduate school changed that. Traveling over the Rockies and through the Great Plains, down the Mississippi River Road, and across the Deep South, criss-crossing the States from the Okefenokee Swamp to Lake Itasca, I felt as though I were seeing this strange and beautiful country for the first time. As a scholar, I value the way literature, too, offers new ways of seeing and thinking about the world. As a teacher, I want my classes to open up new ways of “reading” the American experience, and the human experience, through literary texts.
My first book, In the Company of Books (2006), grew out of several years I spent working in the publishing business during my twenties. Trying to figure out which books to publish and how to get the right books into the right hands made me wonder how authors and publishers in nineteenth-century America dealt with similar challenges. In this book, I analyzed American fiction within the context of nineteenth-century publishing practices. In the Company of Books also gave me the opportunity to explore the growth of children’s literature, a subject I first taught more than a decade ago as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Carleton College and continue to teach regularly at Marquette.
My second book, Right Here I See My Own Books (January 2012), is coauthored by Wayne A. Wiegand, an eminent library historian and Professor Emeritus of Florida State University. The book revolves around the World's Columbian Exposition (the 1893 Chicago World's Fair) and a landmark collection of women's writing that was displayed there. By donating royalties to the fledgling National Women’s History Museum, Professor Wiegand and I hope to emphasize the continuity between this late nineteenth-century cultural watershed and the current, ongoing effort, more than a century later, to establish a permanent museum of women’s history in Washington, DC.
My works-in-progress range across the centuries and overseas, from the eighteenth-century Atlantic World, to Henry James’s Rome, to turn-of-the-twentieth-century Wyoming and an Indian boarding school in the Pacific Northwest. Together with Marija Dalbello, Associate Professor of Library and Information Science at Rutgers University, I am also beginning work on a coedited collection that will explore the contributions of the twenty-one foreign countries that helped create the Woman’s Building Library at the World’s Columbian Exposition.
“Henry James Rides Again.” The Henry James Review 31.1 (Fall 2010): 218-31.
“‘By Invitation Only’: The American Library Association and the Women’s Library of the World’s Columbian Exposition.” Co-authored (equitable) with Wayne A. Wiegand. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 35-3 (Spring 2010): 699-722.
“Louisa May Alcott, William T. Adams, and the Rise of Gender-Specific Series Books.” The Lion and the Unicorn: A Critical Journal of Children’s Literature 25.1 (January 2001): 17–46.
Faculty Development Grants, Marquette University, 2008, 2011.