projects, teaching, and research

Areas and interests: Early American literature and culture, the history of reading, 18th-century British and American literature

Book project: Our Language, Ourselves: A History of Linguistic Identity, 1775–1825

Language was a crucial identity category for English-speakers at the turn of the nineteenth century: Americans and Britons viewed language as one of the most critical defining elements of the self, and one of the most significant aspects of human diversity.  Augmenting and sometimes challenging the more familiar identity categories of race and nationality, this linguistic approach to identity made it possible to imagine communities that did not correspond to racial and national boundaries — while it also offered new technologies of exclusion, as every aspect of pronunciation, vocabulary, and spelling came to seem like a potential basis for determining who belonged and who did not.  Drawing on a wide range of materials from Anglophone print culture, Our Language, Ourselves shows how this forgotten linguistic episode in the history of identity allowed English-speakers to make sense of their rapidly globalizing world, and laid the groundwork for the much later concept of “cultural” identity.

selected publications

“‘A Dictionary Which We Do Not Want’: Defining America Against Noah Webster, 1783–1810.” William and Mary Quarterly (April 2014).

Seeing the Rebel: Or, How to Do Things with Dictionaries in Nineteenth-Century America.” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists 2:1 (spring 2014).

A Blankness Full of Meaning.” Avidly, a Los Angeles Review of Books Channel. 27 Aug. 2015.

recent presentations

“Writing Like an Asian Princess in Nineteenth-Century America.” Society of Early Americanists. Tulsa, Okla., March 2–4, 2017.

“The Job Market as a Disease.” Modern Language Association. Austin, Tex., January 7–10, 2016.

“At Home in the Dictionary.” Symposium on Bureaucracy and the Organization of Knowledge. University of North Texas, Denton, Tex., April 3, 2015.

“The Indian Voices of Troubled White Youth.” Modern Language Association. Vancouver, B.C., January 9, 2015.