Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1995
B.A. Cornell University, 1989
My research and teaching are in eighteenth-century literature and philosophy, foundations of literary theory and criticism, and interdisciplinary approaches to the arts. In my most recent book, Criticism and Truth: On Method in Literary Studies (Chicago, 2023), I defend the epistemology of close reading at the heart of contemporary literary criticism. Portions of this argument were previewed in an essay with the same title in Critical Inquiry. Before that, in Paper Minds: Literature and the Ecology of Consciousness (Chicago, 2018), shortlisted for the Christian Gauss Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Association, I asked what distinctive knowledge literary form and the literary
disciplines can contribute to discussions of perceptual consciousness, created and natural environments, and skilled engagement with the world. On more eighteenth-century topics, my book Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson (Stanford, 2010) considered representations of mind and material objects along with theories of action in fiction, poetry, and philosophy. At the start of it all, my first book, Making the English Canon: Print Capitalism and the Cultural Past, 1700-1770 (Cambridge, 1999), examined the role of criticism and aesthetic theory in the creation of a national literary tradition. I publish regularly in the Chronicle of Higher Education and elsewhere on professional issues in literary studies and continue to write about form and method. I am currently working on a book on Alexander Pope, William Cowper, and the poetics of designed environments titled Earthworks: Two Before Romanticism. Finally, I’m director of the Lewis Walpole Library and the editor (with Steven Pincus) of the Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History for Yale University Press.
- Criticism and Truth: On Method in Literary Studies (Chicago, 2023)
-“Criticism and Truth”, Critical Inquiry, 2021
- “The Humanities in the Time of Covid-19” Meeting St. podcast with Amanda Anderson, October 2020
- “The Humanities After COVID-19,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 2020
-Paper Minds: Literature and the Ecology of Consciousness (Chicago, 2018)
-“What We Hire in Now,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 2018
-“The Way We Hire Now,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 2018
-“How the Jobs Crisis Has Transformed Faculty Hiring”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 2018
-“Forms and Explanations: A Reply to Our Critics” (with Anahid Nersessian), Critical Inquiry, 2017
- “The Interdisciplinary Fallacy,” Representations, 2017.
- “Form and Explanation” (with Anahid Nersessian), Critical Inquiry, 2017.
- “An Aesthetics and Ecology of Presence.” European Romantic Review, 2015.
- “Literary Studies and Science, a Reply to my Critics.” Critical Inquiry, 2012.
- “Living with Lucretius.” in Vital Matters: Eighteenth-Century Views of Conception, Life, and Death (Toronto, 2012).
- “Against Literary Darwinism.” Critical Inquiry, 2011.
- “Recent Studies in the Restoration and Eighteenth Century.” SEL, 2010.
- Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson (Stanford, 2010)
- “Empiricism, Cognitive Science, and the Novel.” The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 2007.
- “Literary Criticism Among the Disciplines.” Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2002
- Making the English Canon: Print Capitalism and the Cultural Past 1700-1770 (Cambridge, 1999).
Politics, Philosophy, and Ecology in Eighteenth-Century English Literature; Literature and Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century; English 126