There are two strands to my research: the American Gothic and the literature of the sea. I am interested in these as both individual and overlapping areas of study.
My research on the American Gothic concentrates on the literary representation of the speaking and writing subject in late-eighteenth and nineteenth-century Gothic literature – the subject of my doctoral work and first monograph, Death and the Limits of Language in Nineteenth-Century American Gothic. I am interested in the ways in which death – as both a figurative and literal phenomena – is depicted as impinging on many of the voices present in America’s emergent literature. As America sought to establish its own ‘voice’ in the wake of the revolution, in which the new nation might speak, the Gothic literature of the era taps into the anxieties attendant on such a process. These anxieties play out against a backdrop of questions of authority, colonial violence and the violence of slavery, indigenous displacement, and developments in communication technologies, producing an America haunted by lost or disembodied voices. My work explores how the new American voice of the nineteenth century is a Gothic voice. Off the back of this work, I am interested more generally in systems of signification in American writing and culture, including tattooing and the ‘voices’ of the American wilderness.
The other strand of my research – the literature of the sea – focuses on explorations of voice and subjectivity in maritime writing, and in the representation of oceanic depths in fictional and nonfictional texts. I am interested in how being at sea changes how we write about the self; how the self changes at sea (and how the sea itself is an agent in that change); and how we get to grips with and think about the creatures, dangers, immense abysses, and voices of the ocean’s depths. For this work, I am interested in both British and American writing, from the Romantic era to the present day. My research engages with a wide variety of texts, from novels and poetry, to diaries written on shipboard, such as that kept by Charles Darwin or passengers aboard the ss Great Britain, to the logbooks kept by American whalers. My work on Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick has been published in MLR and a co-authored piece on the Gothic poetry of the deep is forthcoming in Gothic Studies.