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Academic Research

I completed my PhD in American Studies in the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts at Emory University. My research interests include 19th and 20th century literature for women and children, the history of children’s literature publication in the United States, and contemporary Young Adult (YA) fiction. I see the Young Adult novel as a rich cultural form from which to approach larger issues of gender, sexuality, and subjectivity, particularly in relation to the experience of “girlhood” in contemporary American culture.

Though my PhD is interdisciplinary in nature, my research and teaching tend to align most closely with the humanistic disciplines of American Studies and English. My work engages with Memory Studies, Feminist Theory (and in particular Feminist Materialism), Disability Theory, History of Medicine and Medical Humanities. My experience as an instructor, tutor, and training specialist inform my interests in Instructional Technology and Writing Pedagogy.

DISSERTATION ABSTRACT

“Longing for Longing: Gender, Narrative, and Nostalgia in American Literature for Children and Young Adults.”

Girls’ books—including Little Women, Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series, the novels of Judy Blume, and beyond—are an underused resource for information about the experience of girlhood in American culture.   These books offer a wealth of details about the changing parameters of what it means to be a girl, a woman, and an individual with a self-narrative. Through analysis of fictional and autobiographical texts—as well as archival documents, travel narratives, and museum spaces and promotional materials—this study investigates the shifting terrain of girlhood in the US and the role of memory and nostalgia in linking experiences of girlhood across time and space. Focusing primarily on fictional texts from the 1860s onward, as well as their reception among critics and readers, and the fan clubs, societies, and online groups that connect their readers—“Longing for Longing” places the texts and related supplemental materials in a transhistorical conversation about memory and identity, desire and loss. At stake in this project is the centrality of narrative texts, specifically novels, in the processes of self-making and negotiating relations between individuals. This study identifies several specific figures from classic books for girls, including the “Girl,” the Diarist, the Patient, and the Tourist. These figures and their stories provide girls with the vocabulary to narrate experiences of physical and emotional pain as well as longing, pleasure, and loss. “Longing for Longing” traces the ways in which these figures and narratives persist, often in unexpected ways, in contemporary Young Adult (YA) novels, and argues for the necessity of historicizing contemporary YA novels in the context of earlier books for girls. Neither overtly subversive nor wholly conventional, the texts themselves offer complex readings of childhood, the passage to adulthood, and the available options for being in the world, all inflected by the larger historical and cultural concerns surrounding the period of each text’s genesis and publication. This study illuminates the ways in which books for girls both adopt and interrogate discourses surrounding the physical and mental maturation of young women, and reflect larger cultural anxieties surrounding issues of girls’ innocence, sexualization, and gender expression.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
1. The Books: On Genre, Audience, and Culture
2. The “Girl:” Sentiment and Censorship
3. The Diarist: Shaping the Self, Becoming a Woman
4. The Girl-As-Patient: Vulnerability on the Path to Womanhood
5. The Tourist: Literary Time Travel and Nostalgia’s Affects
Epilogue

RELATED PUBLICATIONS

Several chapters from my dissertation have been adapted for publication. These include:

“Betsy-Tacy and the Diarist: Confession, Self-narrative and Adolescent Identity in Girls’ Books” in Girls’ Series Fiction and American Popular Culture, ed. LuElla D’Amico, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016.

“Who is a Girl?: The Tomboy, the Lesbian, and the Transgender Child” in Gender(ed) Identities: Critical Rereadings of Gender in Children’s and Young Adult Fiction, eds. Tricia Classen and Holly Hassel, New York: Routledge, 2016.

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

“‘Pain has an element of blank’: Chronic Pain, Disability, and Narrative” at the 2013 Annual Conference of the Society for Disability Studies, Orlando, FL.

“‘Born this Way’: Gender, Sexuality, and the Nature/Nurture Binary in Young Adult Fiction” at the 2013 Annual Conference of the College English Association (CEA), Savannah, GA.

 “The Girl as Patient: Narratives of Disability and Illness in Literature for Children and Young Adults” at the 2012 Annual Conference of the Society for Disability Studies (SDS), Denver, CO.

Please see my CV for additional presentations and publications.