I teach and write about nineteenth-century British culture, a period that has generously left behind a wide range of materials to examine. I've been especially committed in recent years to thinking about popular culture broadly defined (theater, journalism, cheap fiction) and political culture, especially liberalism as a social formation. My latest book, Living Liberalism, addresses Victorian political culture through political theory, theories of embodiment and the material practices of citizenship. My current project concerns war, war literature and war journalism in the period. My work is generally grounded in archival research and my courses usually incorporate canonical and non-canonical literature, as well as non-literary texts, such as conduct books, cook books, parliamentary blue books, political pamphlets, sermons—in keeping with a period where print was cheap and literacy comparatively widespread. Other central interests often evident in the courses I offer include: gender theory, urban studies, the novel, melodrama, children's culture, theories of nationalism and histories of affect.
Sample of Courses TaughtGraduate: Richer & Poorer: Income Inequality; Journalism and the British Novel; Historicizing High and Low Culture; Pauperism and Poverty in Nineteenth-Century English Literature; Victorian Childhood; Victorian Wives, Mothers & Daughters; Teaching Undergraduate English (Pedagogy); Before and After Victorian Studies; Victorian Liberalism; Victorian War Fictions.
Undergraduate: Reading Cultures; People, Places, Things: Victorian Novel Survey; The Victorian Period; Inventing Childhood and Nineteenth-Century England; Problems in Gender Studies; Victorian Wives, Mothers & Daughters; Romantic Childhood/Modern Children; Staging Melodrama; The Victorian Novel.
- Living Liberalism: Practical Citizenship in Victorian Britain, University of Chicago Press, 2010 (2010 Albion Book Prize, North American Conference on British Studies).
- Melodramatic Tactics: Theatricalized Dissent in the English Marketplace, 1800-1885, Stanford University Press, 1995.
- "The Past Is a Foreign Country: The Neo-Conservative Romance with Victorian Liberalism," Yale Journal of Criticism, Winter 1997, 7-38.
- "Home as Abroad: Orientalism and Occidentalism in Early English Stage Melodrama," Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Winter 1999, 330-50.
- "On a Darkling Plain: The Fantasy of Liberal Agency," Forum on Liberalism, Victorian Studies, Autumn 2005, 92-102.
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1991. Teaching at Chicago since 1994.