247C Morton Hall
Ph.D. -- English, University of Pennsylvania
A.B. -- Comparative Literature, Princeton University
Areas of Specialization/Interests:
Restoration and eighteenth-century British literature and culture; the history of British poetry and poetics; genre theory (e.g., epic, satire, georgic, pastoral); reception of the Greco-Roman classics; early modern ideas of the common good; literature and the law; literature and science; empire and colonization; the European Enlightenment. I also have a longstanding love of Dante and Italian literature, an emerging interest in book history and the digital humanities, and a growing affection for early American colonial history.
Broadly speaking, my research and teaching consider the age-old question of the role of the arts in society. Why do we read literature? What do we hope to get out of it? And how have ideas about the nature and purpose of literature changed over time? My current book project, tentatively titled Poetry and the Common Weal: The Problem of Civic Utility in Eighteenth-Century Poetics, examines major compositions by John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Edward Young, and others as experiments in improving the common good with poetry. One of the book's central arguments is that Restoration and eighteenth-century writers approached poetry with a very different set of expectations about the nature and purpose of poetic discourse than the expectations that guide the production and criticism of modern poetry (and, indeed, modern art in general). I pay particular attention to a long neglected archive of neoclassical theories of the "rules" of poetry, and I show that these sophisticated conceptions of poetry's civic functions provided guidelines for the most ambitious authors of the day as they sought to shape the "manners" and purge the "passions" of the British polity. I am presently finishing up a series of articles on the West-Indian georgic, a small body of writings about eighteenth-century sugarcane cultivation and slavery. I have also just started a small project on the New England Puritan Cotton Mather that grew out of my research on the English Restoration epic.
"Epic," in The Oxford Handbook of British Poetry, 1680-1800, Ed. Jack Lynch, forthcoming 2014