Associate Professor
University Scholars Programme, National University of Singapore
(65) 6516 4068

Traditionally, literary historians have pondered poetry, drama and prose in terms of art¬istic merit. But studies of literature head in new directions when print with artistic pre¬tensions is put into conversation with other sorts. In my first book, I contextualized canon¬ical efforts by 19th-century writers as familiar as Emerson, Stowe and Douglass by asking what each contributed to dis¬cus¬sions of the “servant problem,” so-called. This approach gain¬ed trac¬tion by drawing on 19th-century advice literature to show how counsel about how to manage household staff helped shape artistic renderings of non-kin service in the “free” and slave states.

In current re¬search, I ask how a long-term steady seller, Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur (1880), helped shape ideas about literariness as the 19th century drew to a close. This project en¬riches fan studies scholarship and histories of U.S. reading that probe reception by putting special emphasis on the ways in which ‘ordinary’ Americans have interacted with print. At first glance, these projects may not seem con¬cep¬tually congruent. But both prioritize neg¬lected populations to ask about the real-world effects of print, the mean¬ing and impact of which can change (markedly) over time.


“Rubbed and polished: Reflecting on 'The Conscience of the Court’,” American Literature (September 2007): 553-75.

Love, Wages, Slavery: The Literature of Servitude in the United States (Illinois, 2006).

“Reflective Responses: I feel I’m learning when ...” CDTL News (March 2005).

“Behind the Scenes: A Case of Cross-Purpose Editing?” American Studies in Scandinavia (Summer 2003): 38-50.

Reading Acts: U.S. Readers’ Interactions with Literature, 1800-1950, ed. Barbara Ryan and Amy L. Thomas (Tennessee, 2002): 161-78.


Conference Papers:

Reading the Evidence, Evidence of Reading
“Scraps of Excess”

London, 2008



Australia/New Zealand American Studies Ass’n
“Hurston’s Laundry Art”

Sydney, 2008



Domestic Service and the Making of the Modern World
“Modernist Ministry”

Warwick, UK, 2008



British Association of American Studies
“Souls of Black Folks and Its Fans”

Leicester, UK, 2007



American Studies Association
“Page to Stage, Ben-Hur”

Oakland, CA, 2006



Narrating Race
“Emily’s Dominion: Portraits of Mistress-ship in Singapore”

Singapore, 2006



Organization of American Historians
“Raced Images of Gendered Ascent: African American Washerwomen”

Washington, DC, 2006



African American Literature: The Gathering
“The Woman @ the Well”

Chapel Hill, 2005



American Literature Association
“Sophia Ripley at Brook Farm”

Boston, 2005