I am a faculty member in the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of South Carolina, where I promote the use of the library’s special collections materials through courses, research projects, and events. My background is in Comparative Literature, and I specialize in British and French literature and culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Broadly speaking, I am interested in the novel, the history of science, histories and theories of the emotions, and book history. More specifically, my research focuses on fiction’s engagement with visual experience (especially novelistic perspective), historical conceptions of “sympathy,” and graphic representations of knowledge (in print illustrations and page layout). I am the lead PI on “The Digital Piranesi,” a large digital humanities project devoted to the works of Giovanni Piranesi that recently received a two-year grant from the NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access. It is under development here.
My book, Vicarious Narratives: A Literary History of Sympathy, 1750-1850, challenges familiar accounts of sympathy and the history of the novel by arguing that Romantic-era fiction responds to Enlightenment theories of shared feeling with a specifically novelistic model of sympathy. In novels by Laurence Sterne, Francois-René de Chateaubriand, Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Mary Shelley, and Emily Brontë, characters who are separated by differences of class, race, or species experience a version of sympathy that struggles to accommodate such differences. At these moments, fiction redefines sympathy as the attempt to overcome difference through the active engagement with narrative—through hearing, re-telling, and transcribing the stories of others.