Professor of English, Director of Literary and Cultural Studies Program
My interests are in feminist cultural studies, sexuality studies, performance studies, and 18th-century British cultural studies. My first book, Divided Fictions, was among the first feminist reconsiderations of the novelist Frances Burney, and Sexual Suspects, a book about actors and ideologies of sexuality in 18th-century Britain, helped to direct theater and feminist studies of the early modern period toward a now-burgeoning interest in sexuality in performance and popular culture. Domestics Affairs explores how labor, gender, and sexuality are integrally related in the practices and ideologies of London domestic service, and how we might think about the relation between these usually distinct categories in other historical instances. Recently, I have focused on eighteenth-century Shakespeare in performance and popular culture, and I co-curated, with Janine Barchas, an exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library entitled, Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity. This research has also led to articles on cultural as well as aesthetic performances in the 18th-century playhouse. For example, how did the presence of the British militia in London theaters impact audience behavior and the performance of plays such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth?
Most recently, I am investigating the confluence of a growing commercial culture of public knowledge, in which the theater and periodical press play key roles, with the decline of English universities from 1660-1770. Narratives about the interaction between the universities and commercial entertainment often resolve into “town versus gown.” I refigure these binaries dialectically between commercial and university cultures by examining performances and texts bringing together classical knowledge with the popular and vernacular. Women are important in the formation of public knowledge as both figures for new knowledge and as active participants, becoming forces to be reckoned with and often the focus of anxiety in masculine performances of knowledge. Shakespeare, championed in popular culture by educated women, is part of this negotiation between traditional academic learning and commercial print and performance production of public knowledge.
I am very grounded in classroom teaching; interactions with my students keep me intellectually alert, honest, and attuned to the importance of making "academic" issues matter to how we think about and live our lives. Years ago, I created a cultural studies edition of Burney's first novel, Evelina, for classroom use, as well as contributing to the Broadview Anthology of Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Drama, both of which grew out of my commitment to developing good texts for cultural studies classes. I just completed a collaboration with Misty Anderson and Daniel O’Quinn on two anthologies, An Anthology and Sourcebook of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama and Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama in Performance for Routledge Press that include materials that highlight the performance of these plays in their time period. I teach courses in Gender Studies, Sexuality Studies, Performance Studies, and early modern British literature and culture.