History of the Book

Elizabeth Helsinger (emerita, teaching 2016-17)

Elizabeth HelsingerI have long been fascinated with the interplay between literature and the visual and material arts. My early work focused on art and social criticism of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Ruskin, Hazlitt, Baudelaire, Pater): on the aesthetic or social assumptions that writers on the arts helped to formulate and the art that shaped their and their readers' sensibilities. Reading became a central term, as I studied how these critics borrow from and in turn shape techniques of looking and of more literary reading and interpretation. I've also worked extensively on landscape as an especially interesting aspect of the shared literary and visual culture of the first half of the nineteenth century—and as the site of competing, often highly politicized constructions of Englishness.

Janice Knight

Janice KnightMy research and teaching interests are localized with respect to historical period-Early American Cultures-but broad with respect to interest in discourses, peoples and cultures of the colonial period, and with respect to scholarly method. My current research focuses on what might be called the "culture of religious emotion" in the context of women's experience in Early America. I am interested in reflecting on expressions of spiritual ecstasy, melancholy, hauntedness, and possession as they are embodied and contained within such conventional genres as narratives of conversion, captivity, revelation, and spiritual disease.

Eric Slauter

My scholarship focuses chiefly on transformations in political thought and behavior in the eighteenth century. My first book, The State as a Work of Art: The Cultural Origins of the Constitution, examined the relation of culture to politics in revolutionary America. I was especially interested there in how the emergent state was challenged in its effort to sustain inalienable natural rights alongside slavery and to achieve political secularization at a moment of growing religious expression.

Christina von Nolcken (emerita, teaching 2015-16)

Christina Von NolckenI start the chronology in the Department, with courses on Old and Middle English language and literature, and the history of the English language. I am especially interested in Anglo-Scandinavian relations towards the end of the Anglo-Saxon period, and, in the later period, late fourteenth- and fifteenth-century devotional texts. My research has mainly been on the Wycliffite attempt to bring education, and especially religious education, to the people. My publications include an edition of a handbook for itinerant Wycliffite preachers, and essays on various Wycliffite texts, including a set of sermons in Latin, a movingly personal letter written from prison, and a startling reworking of that early Middle English guide for anchoresses, the Ancrene Riwle.

Alexis Chema

My scholarship focuses on the literature and aesthetic traditions of the long Romantic period. I am especially interested in teaching and thinking about sensibility and its poetic styles, theories and representations of emotion, literary reception, moral sense philosophy, and visual culture. These areas of inquiry come together for me around the larger question of how Romantic poems create figures for considering the intelligibility of extended collective belonging in the face of an increasingly abstract—spatially diffuse, technologically mediated—social world.
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