Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University
My research focuses upon the literature and culture of eighteenth-century and Romantic Britain, and especially upon the visual-cultural and consumer-material practices of the age that helped reshape literature into new and long-enduring forms. I also have broad interests in the history and theory of fashion, in problems of historical method in literary studies, and in the forms of historiographical writing. In recent work I have addressed subjects ranging from the history of the fashion plate to Romantic antiquarianism, and from the fashionable, eighteenth-century portraiture of Sir Joshua Reynolds to the present-day conceptual dress art of Christian Boltanski.
My first book, Historical Style, connects the rise of historical self-consciousness during the long eighteenth century in Britain—which culminated in the bestselling historical novels of Walter Scott and his contemporaries in the early nineteenth century—to the emergence of a fashion system. Most iconically realized in dated representations of fashionable dress in print (the so-called “dress of the year”), this fashion system summoned fashion plates, portraits, social caricatures, and periodical writings as part of sweeping project to make the “time” of social life newly concrete. As Britons of the age themselves came to recognize, their novel sense of history depended in surprising ways on rhythms of commercial life that increasingly held their attention.
In the first part of the book, I emphasize how irruptions of the past proliferated as a consequence of fashion’s more visible cycles, especially as the detritus of these cycles piled up and obsolete fashions repeatedly returned. In the second part of the book, I show how the new genre of historical fiction learned (by turns) to summon, to manage, and to resent fashion’s power to conjure history—and so confronted the paradoxical dependence of the age’s newly sophisticated historical thought upon fashion as a domain set apart from history: a necessary supplement for hsitory’s own procedures.
In newer work, I extend these concerns (and my earlier focus on the visual and textual archive of fashion) to material dress objects and to the deep influence of dress upon the broader course of aesthetics from the eighteenth century onward. I focus on the distinctive archival provocations of period dress objects and on the special capacities of presentness residing in all dress objects—that is, their pronounced capacity not to belong just to one moment in history.
At Chicago, I regularly teach graduate and undergraduate courses in the literature, arts and culture of eighteenth-century Britain; in British Romantic fiction and poetry; in the history and theory of fashion from the Renaissance to Alexander McQueen; and in visual and sound media studies. I am a faculty co-sponsor of the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Cultures graduate workshop on campus, an affiliate of the Nicholson Center for British Studies, and a regular contributor to Object Cultures Project events. At the Newberry Library, I co-organize the Eighteenth Century Seminar under the auspices of the Center for Renaissance Studies.
2016-17 courses: Spring 2017, Romantic Natures (undergraduate); Romantic Fiction and the Historical Novel (junior seminar, undergraduate).
Graduate: Time Out of Mind: Material Duration in the Long 18th Century; Commercial Affects of the 18th Century; Fashion and Change: The Theory of Fashion; British Romantic Fiction and the Historical Novel
Undergraduate: Romantic Natures; Art’s Institutions in Romantic London; British Romantic Fiction; Fashion and Literature; Introduction to Fiction; Media Aesthetics: Image; Media Aesthetics: Sound
- “Pennant’s Guillotines and Scott’s Antiquary: The Romantic End of the Present,” Romantic Circles Praxis, Special Issue on Romantic Antiquarianism (June 2014)
- “Fashion, Microcosm, and Romantic Historical Distance,” in Rethinking Historical Distance: Varieties of Historical Engagement, ed. Mark Salber Phillips, Barbara Caine, and Julia Adeney Thomas (Palgrave, 2013).
- "'The Business of War': William Godwin, Enmity, and Historical Representation," ELH 76.2 (2009): 343-69.
Recent and Forthcoming Presentations
- “New Work in Romantic Studies” (Special roundtable on significant new monographs), NASSR, U. of California, Berkeley.
- “Christian Boltanski’s Global Dress Without Bodies.” Dressing Global Bodies: Pasold Research Fund Annual Conference, University of Alberta.
- “Jane Austen’s Fashion Cycles.” Emma at 200: Fashion, Fiction, and Feminism. The New School.
- “On Historical Style: Eighteenth-Century Fashion and Romantic Historical Experience.” Eighteenth-Century Studies Group, University of Michigan.
- “Fashionable Things: Elusive Materiality and History in the Waverley Novels.” 18th-/19th-Century Colloquium, Vanderbilt University.
- “Walter Scott’s Fashion Systems.” Traveling Objects: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Matter of History Workshop. Center for Cultural Analysis, Rutgers University.
- “Painting Nature Through Dress: Reynolds and Gainsborough.” Symposium for Fashion, Impressionism, and Modernity Exhibition. Art Institute of Chicago.
- “‘Dispersals of Clothing’”: Afterlives of Dress and the Eighteenth Century in Britain. Archives and Agential Life Workshop. University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Ph.D., Indiana University, 2008. Teaching at Chicago since 2008.
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University