I join Emory this year a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, where I am finishing my first book, Samson Occom: Stranger-Love and Self-Determination.
Please feel free, while you’re here, to read a bit more about…
My first book explores the life, works, and world of the eighteenth-century Mohegan preacher and political leader Samson Occom. I argue that thinking about strangers and how to interact with them was central to Occom’s career in both its literary and political dimensions. Occom thought treating strangers well was a distinctively Indian virtue, but he also embraced new ways of talking to strangers (like print and itinerant preaching) introduced into colonial America with the rise of evangelicalism. Toward the end of his career, Occom developed a new theory of Indian nationalism that embraced Native peoples’ status as strangers to the “chosen” nation that English settlers thought they belonged to.
Samson Occom is under contract at SUNY Press for the Native Traces series, edited by Scott Lyons and Jace Weaver. This series was founded by Gerald Vizenor, and continues his legacy of providing cutting-edge and methodologically expansive scholarship on indigenous cultural history. I am delighted to be a part of it.
…my career before Emory,
I was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Florida and New Jersey. I received my BA from Haverford and my PhD from Yale, where my dissertation focused on the idea of self-expression in colonial and nineteenth-century American culture. Before coming to Emory, I was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Queens College, CUNY, where I taught Colonial American Literature and an intermediate-level course on Genre; in the latter, I drew on the long history of literary-theoretical ideas on the topic, as well as more recent methodological innovations in cultural and linguistic anthropology. Teaching at Queens, and learning to confront the challenge of making seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts come alive in the classroom, had a major impact on my decision to make Occom the focus of my first book.
…my plans after Occom,
Working on Occom has given me a much greater interest than I previously had in the history of religion in colonial America, as well as the transnational history of secularism. While I finish up the Occom book, I am also planning a second one provisionally entitled Indigenous Secularism, which concerns Native writers and political thinkers (from Occom’s time to the present day) who have found it important to draw a distinction between the spheres of politics and religion. This story remains largely untold because of a widespread assumption that Native religions have a special political significance, and vice versa. This assumption is not necessarily wrong, but it needs to be better historicized, and I hope to contribute to that.
…my other scholarly interests,
When I am not working on Occom or indigenous secularism, I continue to read (and, when possible, write) about the theory and practice of self-expression, which I think is one of the most mysterious activities people in modern society engage in. When I was first studying English, most of the literary theory I read told me that self-expression was just a “folk” concept that serious scholars didn’t bother with. But I became increasingly dissatisfied with this dismissive attitude when, during my graduate work, I began thinking about self-expression from a wider array of historical, rhetorical, ethnographic, and philosophical perspectives. My dissertation was, among other things, the beginning of an attempt to come to terms with that dissatisfaction, by way of a critique of the idea of expression (and of polemics against “expressionism”) in the nineteenth-century US human sciences. I continue to think that the idea of self-expression deserves to be taken more seriously, and badly needs re-theorizing in non-essentialist terms. All of my published work, in one way or another, works toward this broader goal, most recently the essay “Frederick Douglass’s Revolutionary Publicness,” which is forthcoming in English Literary History.
…and what I do when I’m not at work.
I enjoy music and playing the piano, gardening (though I currently lack a garden), and being outside with my rescued feist, Yufka. I also enjoy exploring open-source software and am proud to be part of the growing community of humanists who are ditching Microsoft Word and writing in plain text.
Thanks for visiting!