Professor of English and American Studies
My current teaching and writing are broadly based in poetry, feminist theory, and the literature and history of the 18th-century Atlantic world. My most recent book, Hearing Sappho in New Orleans, follows poetic migrations along the path of the African slave trade and tracks them through ancient fragments set in a flooded city. Currently I’m involved in uncovering and studying song and poetry of early Atlantic contact cultures—especially along the eastern and gulf coasts of the North America and in the Caribbean, and in extending studies of poetic contact to include the environment—as in my recent essay “The Burning Question of Poetic Form.”
I have written three other books: The Sounds of Feminist Theory (SUNY Press, 1999), which attends to the audible dimensions of language that feminist critics have written about and engaged; Enlightened Absence: Neoclassical Configurations of the Feminine (University of Illinois Press, 1988), among the first studies of how feminine bodies and phenomena were configured in the English enlightenment; and Dryden’s Dualities (University of Victoria, 1983), a study of the ambivalent mindset of an early English poet. I have also co-edited with the Folger Collective on Early Women Writers the anthology Women Critics, 1660-1820 (Indiana University Press, 1995), and I’ve written a monograph introducing readers to the African-American science-fiction writer Octavia Butler (1985).
Before coming to UNC, I served as Director of Graduate Studies in the interdisciplinary American Studies Department at the University of New Mexico and as Director of the Women’s Studies Program at Purdue University. I have also taught at SUNY Binghamton, the University of Oregon, and Virginia Tech. I’ve served as president of the Women’s Caucus of the Modern Language Association. In 2009, I was Faculty Director of a special UNC Burch Seminar in post-Katrina New Orleans, taught in conjunction with Tulane University.