Degrees

2011, B.A. in English Language and Literature (Honors), University of Chicago.

Bio

I am a Ph.D. candidate in English and Comparative Literature with a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST), specializing in mental health rhetoric research (MHRR), feminist studies, and community literacy. In recent years, I have taught courses in WGST, health/medical rhetoric, popular culture, LGBTQ+ studies, and several variants of composition in/across the disciplines. I have also held research positions in public policy, developmental psychology, and urban education.

My current research tracks the circulation of “mad genius” rhetoric in contemporary American culture, investigating how popular media—especially auto/biographical narratives—imagine a link between mental illness and exceptional creativity, intelligence, and other gifts or talents. My dissertation, “Extra/Ordinary Minds: ‘Mad Genius’ Topoi and Memoirs of Mental Illness,” draws from MHRR and feminist studies to explore sociocultural factors (i.e., disability, gender, race, and class) that compel persons with mental illness to construct mad genius personae in life writing. Through case studies grounded in Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted, Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation, and Meri Nana-Ama Danquah’s Willow Weep for Me, I examine four basic mad genius topoi: 1) genius leads to madness, 2) madness confers genius, 3) madness and genius are both innate and indistinguishable, 4) madness and genius share a common source in external trauma. Reading these best-selling memoirs as individualized responses to systemic rhetorical exclusion, I argue mad genius topoi are apparently effective, yet ultimately unsustainable frameworks through which to cope with significant psychic pain.

Outside the walls of UNC, I strive to be an advocate for community literacy and the public humanities—especially initiatives that position personal writing as a source of healing. Since 2016, I have served as a volunteer support group facilitator at a women’s center in my community, designing and leading ~100 hours of writing/art/discussion-based support groups for survivors of domestic violence. As a 2019-2020 Maynard Adams Fellow for the Public Humanities, I am researching new methods for integrating MHRR and textual analysis into the para-therapeutic activity of support groups.


Publications:

  • “Broken Promise: Depression as Ex-Gifted Girl Identity in Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation.” In The Faces of Depression in Literature, ed. Josefa Ros Velasco (Peter Lang, forthcoming).

Teaching Awards

  • Krista Turner Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence, 2019.
  • Erika Lindemann Teaching Award in Composition and Literature, 2019.
  • Erika Lindemann Teaching Award in Composition and Literature, 2018.

Awards

  • Maynard Adams Fellowship for the Public Humanities, 2019–2020.
  • Summer Research Fellowship, UNC Department of English and Comparative Literature, 2019.
  • Travel Award, American Comparative Literature Association, 2019.
  • Blyden Jackson and Roberta Jackson Graduate Fellowship, 2013–2014.