My current project, Ancient Egypt, Sacred Science, and Transatlantic Romanticism, analyzes the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walt Whitman, and Herman Melville. I received my PhD in the spring of 2011 from the University of California-Berkeley.
I contend that a deep strain of Egyptian influence runs through a major tradition of English literature from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1596), one of whose major iconographic centers is the temple of Isis, to John Crowley’s four-volume novel Ægypt (2007). My dissertation focuses on the Romantic period – the midpoint of this trajectory – because it is an extremely intense moment of this influence. In addition to the visions of Egypt presented in the Bible, Greco-Roman writers, and travel narratives, ancient Egypt reached British and American culture of the time through a variety of channels, such as Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 (which displaced Egyptian monuments into museums around Britain and the USA), the deciphering of the hieroglyphics in 1822, and revived interest in heterodox Alexandrian traditions such as alchemy, gnosticism, and hermeticism. These channels transmitted a mediated Egyptian “sacred science,” which can be defined as a transdisciplinary form of knowledge not concerned with the study of external objects, but with using potent combinations of rituals and symbols to catalyze the deep transformation and expansion of consciousness itself, with the final goal being the divinization of the human. My research focuses on how Romantic writers interpreted and extended this tradition for modern Europe and America.
My teaching, like my research, is guided by a close attention to transdisciplinarity, the construction of intercultural literary traditions and theories, the exploration of a “cosmic” dimension of the literary text as a supplement to its sociohistorical and formal dimensions, and the perception of cultural continuity over large swaths of time and space. This spring, I will be teaching an upper division seminar called “An Introduction to Global Romanticisms.” This course, covering a wide span of poetry from the extended nineteenth century, puts European and American Romantic figures (including Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Whitman, Dickinson, Goethe, Holderlin, Hugo, and Nerval) in conversation with other global Romanticisms (including African-American spirituals, Navajo chants, and writers like Yosano Akiko and Rabindranath Tagore).