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. Together with Marija Dalbello, Associate Professor of Library and Information Science at Rutgers University, I am also planning 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.
Mr. Penrose: The Journal of Penrose, Seaman. Williams, William (author), Dickason, David Howard (Editor) and Wadsworth, Sarah (Afterword). Indiana Press, 2013.
“‘no world’ by Kara Walker.” Re-Seeing the Permanent Collection, Haggerty Museum of Art, 2013.
Right Here I See My Own Books: The Woman's Building Library at the World's Columbian Exposition. Coauthored with Wayne A. Wiegand. Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012.
“Canonicity and the American Public Library: The Case of American Women Writers.” Windows on the World—Analyzing Main Street Public Library Collections. Special volume edited by Wayne A. Wiegand. Library Trends 60.3 (Spring 2012). 706-28.
Woman’s Building Library Database. Relational database of U.S. texts in the library of the Woman’s Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Published on ePublications@Marquette, 2011.
“Refusing to Write like Henry James: Women Reforming Realism in Fin de Siècle America.” European Journal of American Studies [Online] 2 (2011).
“The Europeans.” A Critical Companion to Henry James. Ed. Eric Haralson and Kendall Johnson. New York: Facts on File-Clearmark Books (2009), 74-82.
“Social Reading, Social Work, and the Social Function of Literacy in Louisa May Alcott’s ‘May Flowers.’” Short Story Criticism 98 (May 2007; rpt. Cengage Learning, 2012). Ed. Jelena Krstovic. Gale Group. [Rpt. of chapter in Reading Women: Literary Figures and Cultural Icons from the Victorian Age to the Present. Ed. Janet Badia and Jennifer Phegley. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.]
“William Williams.” American National Biography. Ed. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. Volume 23. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. 512–13.
“Charles Knight and Sir Francis Bond Head: Two Early Victorian Perspectives on Printing and the Allied Trades.” Victorian Periodicals Review 31.4 (Winter 1998): 369–86.
“The Making (and Remaking) of the Penny Magazine: An Electronic Edition of Charles Knight’s ‘The Commercial History of a Penny Magazine.’” Gutenberg Jahrbuch 1997 (Gutenberg Institute–University of Mainz, 1997). Co-authored (equitable) with Laura K. Dickinson. 289–97.
“Revising Lives: Bernard Shaw and His Biographer.” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 17.4 (Fall 1994): 339–66.
Faculty Development Grants, Marquette University, 2008, 2011.