· Research ·
- “The Name ‘Ianthe’ and a Pregnancy by Byron in a Letter of Lady Oxford’s.”
Byron Journal, vol. 47, no. 1, 2019, pp. 43-53.
- An 1813 letter written by Lady Oxford, never before published in full, answers literary and biographical questions about her relationship with Byron. Biographers argue whether she had a pregnancy by Byron and why Byron did not mention it again; this letter confirms that she did have a pregnancy which ended in a miscarriage. Byron’s nickname for Lady Oxford’s daughter Lady Charlotte Harley, ‘Ianthe’, is sometimes treated as an interpretive key to Byron’s poems to Charlotte, but does not appear in early drafts, and is only added to ‘To Ianthe’ many months after Lady Oxford and Charlotte left England. This letter shows that the epithet ‘Ianthe’ was connected to the portrait of Charlotte before she left England, placing the name closer to the composition of the poems and supporting its interpretive significance.
- “‘Attract Thy Fairy Fingers Near the Lyre’: Scripting and Performing Childhood in Byron’s ‘To Ianthe.’”
Byron Journal, vol. 46, no. 1, 2018, pp. 37-47.
- Byron scholars have observed that Byron commonly treats identities as performances rather than essences. However, excluding children from such performances of identity, scholars see Byron’s ‘To Ianthe’ (1814) as a portrait of inherent childhood innocence. Byron’s biographers and child studies scholars point out that portrayals of children as passively innocent expose the child character and child reader to exploitation by the adult author. I argue instead that in Byron’s ‘To Ianthe’ the child does participate in the performance of identity. The poem describes many models of childhood—innocence, erotic desirability, cultured competence—presenting these different models of childhood to the reader as options: different roles the child reader may select to perform. Emphasising the child performer of roles over adult prescriptions for childhood, the poem treats all adult prescriptions as scripts subject to selection and adaptation by the child performer, demonstrating Byron’s recognition of child agency.
- “‘What a Boy (or Girl) Wants’ in The Turn of the Screw: The Children’s Frankly-Expressed Motives for their Performances.”
English Studies, vol. 98, no. 8, 2017, pp. 951-67.
- In place of traditional suspicious readings of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (1898), I employ Sharon Marcus’s “just reading” to explain the children’s behaviour in terms of their frankly expressed desires: time to themselves, a return to school for Miles and the authority of their social class. I argue that the novel is the story of the children’s desires, how their desires are inhibited by the governess and how the children perform a series of roles—innocent childhood, “naughty” boyhood and high-class adulthood—in an effort to gain what they want. This presents an opportunity to reframe the debate over the novel: the chief question is not whether the ghosts are real but whether the children desire (and are responsible for) collusion with ghosts (real or not). James critiques cultural assumptions about children’s alterity, instead portraying children as humans with their own desires and agency.
- “A Unique Text of Byron’s ‘Go—triumph securely.’”
Keats-Shelley Journal, vol. 64, 2015, pp. 35-41.
- A unique, previously unnoticed text of Lord Byron’s poem “Go—triumph securely” shows that Byron’s revisions of the poem shifted between an emphasis on the speaker’s childlike emotions and an emphasis on his adult fortitude.
- “‘The Little Actor’: Performing Childhood in Nineteenth-Century British Literature,”
Ph.D. dissertation at UNC Chapel Hill, 2016.
- Lord Byron’s “To Ianthe,” Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, and Rudyard Kipling’s Kim reinvent the portrayal of childhood. Didactic literature by authors such as John Newbery, Mary Wollstonecraft, Isaac Watts, John and Charles Wesley, and Hannah More, though it assumed that growing up meant the transformation of an essential inner identity, paradoxically represented childhood not as an essential quality, but as a prescribed role to be performed by the child. Children’s performance of morally or culturally approved roles was, in fact, the mechanism by which they were supposed to be transformed into successful adults. Didactic authors expected the child to imitate a single model: the moral, educated, well-mannered child. Byron, Carroll, James, and Kipling instead point to multiple models, multiple ideas of how children could behave. In their works, children can choose from different “scripts” of childhood and perform them to reinvent childhood and themselves: the children imitate models but choose which ones to emulate. James and Kipling go a step further, depicting children who use their performance of social roles to influence adults and pursue their own goals. Finally, Kipling questions (much like the late twentieth-century critic Judith Butler) whether his young protagonist even has an essential identity separate from the performance of social roles. The four authors imitate didactic literature’s idea of childhood-as-performance but transform it, asserting children’s agency against the adult authority of didactic literature. This study’s analysis of these authors’ works expands Marah Gubar’s focus on child agency (rather than passive vulnerability to adult influence) in children’s literature to depictions of children in the broader field of nineteenth-century British literature. Its argument also builds on Robin Bernstein’s notion of performed childhood innocence as a racial category excluding African-Americans; I describe the way Byron, Carroll, James, and Kipling use the different expectations for children of different cultures, classes, and genders—such as the expectations for Kim’s roles as both British spy and eastern Buddhist disciple in Kipling’s Kim—to generate multiple possibilities for childhood roles.
- “‘Swift winged words’: the vocabulary and word distribution of Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly.”
The Blog of the Blake Archive and Blake Quarterly, 2016.
- “Interpreting Byron’s Poetry and Life with McGann’s Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works.”
Modern Language Association conference. Seattle, WA. January 9-12, 2020.
- “‘Extraordinary… Performance’: Playing Many Roles as Resistance to the Adult Colonization of Childhood in Kipling’s Kim.”
Victorians Institute conference. Charleston, SC. October 31-November 2, 2019.
- “Playing at Harem: Child Performance of Eastern Roles in Dickens’s ‘The Ghost in Master B’s Room.’”
Translingual and Transcultural Competence (Northeast Modern Language Association conference). Baltimore, MD. March 23-26, 2017.
- “‘Acting Her Charades’: Children Performing Expectations in James’s Turn of the Screw.”
In Concert: Literature and the Other Arts (South Atlantic Modern Language Association conference). Durham, NC. November 13-15, 2015.
- “Games and Riddles in Emma.”
Emma at 200 (Jane Austen Summer Program). Chapel Hill, NC. June 18-21, 2015.
- “Childhood and Education in Jane Austen’s Era.”
Sense and Sensibility Revisited (Jane Austen Summer Program). Chapel Hill, NC. June 12-15, 2014.
slideshow, written speech, handout
- “‘The Image of the Invisible’: Strange Knowledge and Ordinary People in the Gospels and in Wells’s Invisible Man.”
Strangeness, In Context conference. Athens, GA. March 23-24, 2013.
- “Doing, Not Drifting: Online Tool Building as Research and Composition,” roundtable discussion.
ArchiTEXTure: Composing and Constructing in Digital Spaces (Computers and Writing conference). Raleigh, NC. May 17-20, 2012.
- “A Crocodile Overcome: Idleness, Busyness, and Mischief in David Copperfield.”
Charles Dickens: Past, Present, and Future (Victorians Institute conference). Myrtle Beach, SC. October 21-22, 2011.
- “Naming ‘Ianthe’: Charlotte Harley and Byron’s Classical Sources.”
Byron & Latin Culture (International Byron Society conference). Valladolid, Spain. June 27-July 1, 2011.
- “The Child Traveler: Authority, Culture, and Nonsense in Alice in Wonderland.”
Sound and Unsound: Noise, Nonsense, and the Unspoken conference. Charlottesville, VA. April 1-3, 2011.
- “Enthralled Childhood and Withered Age: Sense, Secrecy and Knowledge in Keats’s Tales of Circe, Lamia, and La Belle Dame.”
Making Sense: Thinking and Feeling Texts conference. Charlottesville, VA. April 15-17, 2010.