My work is driven by a fascination with methodology: How do we decide what counts as evidence? How do we move from evidence to argument? The study of literature and its history is one of the most provocative domains in which to explore larger questions about method on the human sciences. How have evidence, literature, and argument changed over time, shaped culture, and created beauty, inequality, or violence? How many hundreds of ways are there to read a book, to make a claim about it? Many of those ways don’t involve even opening a book—and for every method we now have of reading a book (or a newspaper, a screen, a poster, you name it), there is one the past knew that we have lost touch with. I pursue these questions in the fields of early American literature, Native American and Indigenous studies, digital archives, and the history of the book. I've written or edited six books, including most recently The New Walt Whitman Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2020).
The emergence of the digital mediation of literary history is one of the most fascinating places to pursue research questions like these. I'm lucky to be the co-director, with Kenneth M. Price and Ed Folsom, of the
With Price and Stephanie Browner, I co-edit the Charles Chesnutt Digital Archive, a free resource for the study of one of the most important figures in African American literary history.