The Natural Woman: Sex, Sentiment, and the Subversion of Reality.
My dissertation grounds itself in nineteenth century American literature and culture, though I follow that century through its fin de siècle social progressions, up to the 1920s. In this project, I track the development of nineteenth century rationalizations of femaleness in light of a kind of dialectical positioning. Beginning in the 1830s, American literary culture reveals that, as men become more modern in the context of the “made” world, and more socially realizable in correspondence with industrialization, women become more natural, more anachronistic, and wedded to tradition and compulsion in light of such modern maleness. I chart this increasing divergence through the lens of emergence – namely, the rise of separate, demarcated spheres of culture for men and women. I am drawn, in particular, to moments where such demarcation becomes unavoidably apparent in the canon of American literature: the little-known author Anne Moncure Crane, for example, becomes a kind of female foil to the indomitable Henry James. Crane’s 1864 novel Emily Chester, though a popular best-seller, was lambasted by the (largely male) critical establishment, including James himself. James, however, went on to write his most arguably important contribution to American literature, The Portrait of a Lady, on precisely the same themes as Crane, borrowing several plot elements, and even characters, from Crane’s “dull” and “worthless book,” to quote James' published review of it. The Crane-James controversy is one of a handful of moments that I highlight in order to advance the claim that nineteenth century culture, in its steadfast insistence upon the correspondence of women with nature (including the body, natural compulsion, and the natural world itself), disinherited women from the social processes of modernity. Even the women’s suffrage movement during this period, ironically, styled itself upon such social paradoxes, appealing to women’s “natural” inclinations towards harmonious cooperation and moral responsibility as grounds for their democratic enfranchisement. What's more, though, is the way that this model of "natural femininity" becomes the basis for modern thinking about femaleness, and subtends even twentieth century notions of gender. By the 1920s, the point at which film becomes a major player in popular culture, we see that the genres of "male" and "female" culture have become crystallized and embedded in generic invention.
"Of Anarchy and Amateurism: Zine Publication and Traditions of Print Dissent.” M/MLA: The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, 14.1 (Fall 2011).
“Virtual Education and Real Exploitation.” Cultural Logic, ed. Ramsay (Spring 2011): issue forthcoming.
“‘Reading for It’: Lesbian Readers Constructing Culture and Identity through Textual Experience.” Peele, Thomas, ed. Queer Popular Culture. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan (2007).