Assistant Professor of English (on sabbatical 2010-2011)
I work in the ever expanding field of contemporary American literature: in my scholarship and my teaching, I focus on the interrelation between aesthetic formulations of subjectivity and practices of social transformation in the arenas of autobiography, visual culture studies, and critical discourses concerning gender and race. I forge my work in conversation with disability rights activists and art historians as well as with literary theorists and visual artists.
At Haverford, in addition to my work teaching in the English Department and the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, I have created a number of initiatives such as "Drawing the Line," a five-day symposium on comics and social transformation that showcased the work of Lynda Barry, Eric Drooker, and John Jennings, and with the support of the Hurford Humanities Center established a semester-long collaboration with installation artist and AIDS activist Pato Hebert for a course entitled "Arts of the Possible" in which we focused on how social movements of the late 20th century articulated their goals and visions through the street theater of mass marches, the reanimation of church hymns, and the appropriation of the visual strategies of mass marketing. My work with Haverford and Bryn Mawr students in the classroom has helped me to articulate and refine the central concerns of my scholarship, and I think of my teaching and mentoring in part as an investment in the ongoing constitution of a vibrant intellectual community here at Haverford. In the contexts of classes such as English 204: American Autobiography and English 278: "Contemporary Women Writers" students have had the opportunity to work with visiting artists such as filmmaker Shanti Thakur, folksingers Charlie King and Karen Brandow, and poets Cherrìe Moraga and John Rybicki.
With filmmaker Mary DiLullo and with the support of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, I am at work on the documentary A Cartoonist in the Classroom which focuses on the Lynda Barry's work in the classroom and on the page.
B.A., Haverford College
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
In my most recent work, Breaking the Frame: Comics and the art of social transformation (forthcoming from the University Press of Mississippi), I argue that works such Safe Area Gorazde, Joe Sacco’s account of genocide during the war in Eastern Bosnia in the mid-1990s and A Child’s Life, Phoebe Gloeckner’s discomfiting illustrations of the ways in which bodies are broken, refigured, and sexed are comics that effectively teach their readers how to see the ideologies – the foundational values, the organizing assumptions, and the habits of being and seeing – that inform our vision of the world, but which are themselves usually invisible. Throughout Breaking the Frame, I focus on comics’ depiction of the politics of everyday life – the social negotiations encapsulated in a game of kickball, the corporate investments underlying public health campaigns, the question of who will cross enemy lines in order to feed the family; such moments make manifest comics’ potential to tell, in the words of Erica Cho, “the small story hidden within larger contexts of history and politics, war and displacement, global migrations, family separation, racism and genocide, sexism and heterosexism.” As manifest in the “gutters” that run between frames in a comic strip, the composition of comics can open up fissures in social institutions ranging from racialized hierarchies to compulsory heterosexuality, thus creating a space in which to examine those systems of belief that we take on by force or by faith.
I am currently at work on a new project entitled “Who is worth saving?: Representations of conversion narratives from The Book of Genesis, Illustrated to Heaven’s Coast” in which I am focusing on works which represent rearticulations of individual beliefs and communal values at moments of social crisis and transformation. My point of orientation and departure for this project is The Book of Genesis, Illustrated, Robert Crumb’s 2009 tour-de-force based on Robert Alter’s 1996 translation of The Five Books of Moses. Crumb’s Genesis illuminates lives that are lived outside the parameters of The Word: a key panel shows Jacob commanding those of his clan to give up their gods, a famous moment inscribed in Genesis 35:2 that is conventionally read as a triumph of monotheism. In Crumb’s illustration, the weight of the panel literally as well as figuratively rests with the women who are forced to acquiesce to Jacob’s order, an aesthetic strategy that raises the fundamental question of who, and what is considered worth saving when competing social orders come into open conflict.
Recent publications include:
"Crossing the Lines: Graphic (Life) Narratives and Co-laborative Political Transformations." Biography 32.1 (Winter 2009) 173-189.
"Comic Visions and Revisions in the work of Lynda Barry and Marjane Satrapi." MFS 52.4 (Winter 2006) 173-189.
“Talking-story: Rearticulating Identity, Recasting Canons, and Rereading Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior:” National, Communal, and Personal Voices in Asian America and the Asian Diaspora, edited by Elisabetta Marino and Begonia Simal-Gonzalez (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2005) 25-41.