In my research, I’ve been most interested in the problem of ownership rights as expressed in several cultural forms, including imaginative literature, legal writings, political discourse, and popular culture. My current project, Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century (forthcoming, Oxford UP, 2012), studies the intersections of racial difference, property rights, and legal notions of the family. I focus particularly on the economic consequences of interracial sexuality in the nineteenth century, and argue that various forms of intimacy across the color line became flash points for the distribution—and possible redistribution—of wealth by pressuring legal and social ideas of property and family. Understanding racial difference to be both an emotional and a legal structure, I study how judges decreed and literary authors imagined property moving—or being prevented from moving—back and forth across the sometimes mutable color line in the nineteenth century, as well as how these movements both shaped, and were in turn shaped by, the often competing notions of family as legal construct, social practice, and literary idea. At issue here are the financial claims that were made or refused in the name of “family”; the permissions and taboos that choreographed the dance of race and sex; the ambiguities of love and recrimination; and the struggles over what family and economic rights meant to and for each other as desires sometimes grated against and sometimes conformed to laws and social norms regarding racial difference.
Areas of Specialty:
- American Literature
- Critical Race Theory
- Economics and Literature
Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century. Forthcoming, Oxford University Press, 2012.
America's Culture of Terrorism: Violence, Capitalism and the Written Word. The University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
"Family Money: Race and Economic Rights in Antebellum US Law and Fiction." American Literary History 21 (2009).
"Property and Selfhood in Herman Melville's Pierre." Nineteenth-Century Literature 61 (2006).
"The Market in Male Bodies: Henry James’s The American and Late-Nineteenth-Century Boxing." The Henry James Review 25 (2004).
"Martin Delany’s Blake and the Transnational Politics of Property." American Literary History 15 (2003).
"Modeling, Diagramming, and Early Twentieth-Century Histories of Invention and Entrepreneurship: Henry Ford, Sherwood Anderson, Samuel Insull." Cambridge Journal of American Studies 36 (2002).
"The 1886 Chicago Haymarket Bombing and the Rhetoric of Terrorism in America." Yale Journal of Criticism 15 (2002).
"‘This Firm of Men-Killers’: Jack London and the Business of Terrorism." Modern Fiction Studies 45 (1999).
"Race and the Protocol of American Citizenship in William Dean Howells’ An Imperative Duty." American Literary Realism 30 (1998).
"‘Mr. Nobody from Nowhere’: Rudolph Valentino, Jay Gatsby, and the End of the American Race." Genre 29 (1996).