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Writing & Research

My work explores the historical, literary, and cultural dimensions of ocean biodiversity, including interdisciplinary collaborations with scientists and keepers of traditional and Indigenous ecological knowledge systems. 

Current research areas and selected publications are below.

Selected Publications


In Victorian Literature and Culture, Volume 46.3 (2018).

"The turn toward transnational and hemispheric approaches to literary studies is especially well suited to a 'blue' Victorian ecocriticism, as the constellations of ports and maritime shipping routes provide nodes along which so many of our narratives are conducted.  In a period in which Britannia so thoroughly 'rules the waves,' how does literature account for might be lurking in those waves and for the joys and terrors of life on--or near--the sea?"

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Teaching Arctic Climate Change Humanities

In Arctic Relations, May 2019.  

"Students often reach the same conclusion: utterly struck by the deep unfairness that the people least responsible for climate change, who live closest to the land and have been its stewards for a thousand years, are the first to be affected by it.  They also express shock and concern at the dismissive treatment of Arctic Indigenous cosmologies and knowledge systems by non-Indigenous researchers, and I extend this dismay and frustration to well-meaning researchers who pay lip service to “decolonizing” their fields without meaningfully engaging Indigenous epistemologies."


Read it here.

Tennyson’s Kraken Under the Microscope and in the Aquarium

In Underwater Worlds, edited by Will Abberley.  Cambridge Scholars. 2018.

This essay explores nineteenth-century attempts to place the Kraken and other sea monsters under the (literal and literary) glass of the microscope and behind the glass of new aquarium technologies.  The poem’s conflation of deep sea with deep time also makes it an ideal text for historical studies of the underwater world and nineteenth-century geological and taxonomical debates, as post-Enlightenment science’s struggle to reconcile new theories with archaic public conceptions about nature and order will ultimately yield significant scientific, cultural, and even imperial repercussions.  These images also force us to reconsider the peculiar structure of the poem; this essay will argue that the structure of the poem is modeled after the Kraken itself—a central poetic "body" with "tentacles" which, like the microscope or the aquarium, attempts to domesticate the monster but instead reinforces the taxonomical confusion it engenders in both modern science and archaic public lore.

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Oxford Bibliography of Victorian Maritime Literature

In Oxford Bibliography of Victorian Literature, Oxford University Press, 2017.

"For an island on which no point is farther than seventy miles from the coast, it is not surprising that the sea carries such cultural weight in Britain.  In the study of Victorian literature and culture, “the maritime” encompasses any aspect of Britain’s engagement with the sea, from the Royal Navy to the development of marine science to seaside leisure to the sea’s facilitation of Victoria’s global empire.  Victorian Britain participated in a maritime world at the conclusion of the Age of Sail, two decades after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in which Britain was safe because it ruled the waves.  Victorian literature typically does not just suggest but rather forceful tells its reader that the sea is a properly British realm, even as exciting recent criticism has proven the maritime to be a space where formerly rigid ideas about Victorian literature and culture can be challenged." 

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Looking at Leviathan:
The First Captive Cetaceans in Britain

In Ecocriticism and the Anthropocene in Nineteenth Century Art and Visual Culture, edited by Maura Coughlin and Emily Gephart.  Routledge.  2019.

Though so much of daily life in nineteenth-century Britain depended on whales—they literally and figuratively illuminated and lubricated the Industrial Revolution—it was rare for someone other than a whaleman, fisherman, or sailor to see a live whale.  This changed in September 1877 with the arrival of the first “white whale” at the Royal Aquarium in Westminster.  This chapter will reconstruct her life, explore the cultural and ecological contingencies in her display, and consider her captivity in light of the ongoing struggle for cetacean liberation at aquariums and marine parks today.  While much excellent scholarly attention has been paid to pictorial representations of whales—and to the decorative and practical items their bodies yielded such as scrimshaw and corset stays—regarding the body of the whale itself as imbricated in visual culture also speaks to the fundamental anxiety of the island nation: Britannia rules the waves, but whales (and what else?) rule the depths. 

View PDF and read the publisher's description here.

A Whale is a Palimpsest:

Dismembering and Remembering in Moby-Dick and Fighting the Whales

Inn Nineteenth-Century Memorial Cultures, edited by Kathy Grenier and Amanda Mushal.  Palgrave.  2020.

In Chapter 104, “The Fossil Whale,” Melville’s Ishmael pronounces leviathan a “text” (“But when leviathan is the text, the case is altered”), later daring his comrades and his audience to “Read it if you can.”  In Moby-Dick (1851) and the lesser-known Fighting the Whales (1863) by Scottish novelist R.M. Ballantyne, whalemen read the whale’s flesh like a text to imaginatively “remember” (put back together) its life story while industriously dismembering its body.  They read the text of the whale’s body as a palimpsest with multiple layers of physical semiotic inscription: harpoons embedded in the whale from previous skirmishes with whalemen in addition to scars and distinguishing marks all help craft this life story (which also materially contributed to early scientific knowledge about whales).  The whale is endowed with this “memory” and funereally commemorated after the cutting-in and trying-out.  This act of “remembering” is then set against the constant danger of the whaleman’s life—the dismembered body is sometimes his own—and the familiar nineteenth-century trope of burial at sea in which the lack of a fixed grave marker necessitates alternate forms of commemoration for the slain whale hunter.

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Great Britain:

In The Sea in World History: Exploration, Travel, Trade, edited by Stephen Stein, ABC-CLIO, 2017.  

I contributed the introduction to the chapter on Great Britain (1750-1914), as well as three shorter essays on the Turtle, John Franklin's lost expedition, and shipboard life in the Age of Sail, respectively.  

View PDF and read the publisher's description here.

Address to the Women's March:
Given in Pensacola, January 2017

In Rhetoric and Composition, 2e. Ed. Raina Garrett. Southlake: Fountainhead Press. 2017.

This short address was given to a crowd of 2,000+ at the inaugural 2017 Pensacola Women's March and reprinted (with an introduction by Laura Herbek) in the textbook Rhetoric and Composition.

Read it here.

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