Research

This page features some of my current research projects. Teaching is a field of research and practice as well, but I keep related documents (especially course descriptions) in their own category for ease of navigation.

Disguises in Le Morte Darthur and The Faerie Queene: My dissertation project. Summarily, I argue that disguise and incognito offer ways of examining late medieval and early modern conceptions of individuality. As moments where a character undertakes another persona, disguises allow characters to potentially change the signification of their actions and revise their own circumstances. At the same time, they render knighthood as fidelity to systems of courtly behavior, where the alienation risked by undertaking a different body are made to reinforce ideal class and gender roles.

The focal authors are Sir Thomas Malory and Edmund Spenser. By necessity, I also consult and consider other Middle English romances, especially those in circulation in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Key critics under discussion include Stephen Greenblatt, Susan Crane, Stephen Hodges, and Dorsey Armstrong.

Chaucer, Boethius, and Happiness: An article I am revising for publication. It looks at Chaucer’s prose translation of Boethius’s Consolatio Philosophiae (called the Boece), studying how his translations of felicitas and beatitudo, appearing under the invented words welefulnesse and blissfulnesse, reinforced a medieval Christian tendency to construe worldly happiness as false happiness in relation to spiritual happiness, a tendency that subsequently showed up in 15th century works.

Julian of Norwich and Puns: A conference paper I am revising into article form. I argue that for Julian of Norwich, a late medieval Christian anchoress, mystic, and theologian, puns offered a way to realize in language the concept of unification (literally one-ing) between God and individual, between the elements of the Trinity, and between our mortal experience of punishment for sin and the ecstatic joy of being.

Chaucer’s House of Fame: A collaborative project undergone with Ben Hilb in the Spring of 2012. We read House of Fame together and generated material for a collaborative article. We found lots to work with, especially the material circulation of narratives displayed in murals or engraved in ice, as well as a strange sense of continuity with the past, where the retelling or reading of stories conjures things that can be seen, heard, and touched. I return to this project periodically with new notes.

Aaron and Humoral Language in Titus Andronicus: I presented this research last year at SAMLA, and I’m preparing it as an article. This is a study of how medical discourse defines the individual body in William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. The humours here refer to a medical model inherited from ancient physicians like Galen and still common in the seventeenth century: the body is made up of four humours, and illness or distemper is the result of humoral imbalances, interactions with the environment, and so on. I argue that Aaron is rhetorically posed as having exceptional control over his and others’ bodily humours in a play where humours (especially blood and melancholy) frequently overflow. His exceptional control develops a reading of the circulation of violence in the late Roman state, where his self-containment and his tendency to affect others towards distemper represent the fear of the Moorish outsider. Because of his threat as a contagion, the only solution is to confine him to verbal silence and unbloodied planting in the ground.

The reading owes much to Jean Feerick (Strangers in Blood: Relocating Race in Renaissance Literature, 2010) and earlier work on humours initiated by Gail Kern Paster after The Body Embarrassed (1993).

Code Meshing in the Emory Writing Center: I will be presenting as part of a roundtable at the Southeastern Writing Center Association conference in 2015. Writing centers and composition courses have struggled in the past decade to keep up with student writers whose first languages and dialects are not the English of formal academic writing. Code meshing is a strategy advocated by critics like Vershawn Ashanti Young for connecting the rhetorical effects of various dialects with the expectations of academic writing. A student writer’s voice thus meshes with the registers of various genres of composition. While this is a great idea, it is difficult to implement in academic environments where professors and students often stick to the more easily identifiable need to fit stricter writing models and the ever-present anxiety over error correction.[1]

In the Emory Writing Center, early successes in tutor training and discussion were followed by over a month where code meshing was hardly ever discussed during tutoring sessions or during staff meetings. Where did code meshing go? My presentation will address some of the reasons tutors avoided using code meshing as a tutoring strategy.

[1] Errors should be corrected, but we should identify errors according to whether they fit or don’t fit the rhetorical purposes of writing. Purpose, audience, and convention should all be addressed before we go about proofreading.

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