Future research

Seer Bonnet by Angela Ellsworth (c. 2008)

Seer Bonnet by Angela Ellsworth (c. 2008), composed of over 20,000 steel corsage pins

I am at work on a new monograph on mental health and modern literature. Focused on psychopathology in the first half of the twentieth century, the project explores how narrative form unsettles clinical definitions of illness. Here, digital text analysis and data visualization help me to rethink the cultural politics at work in biological schemas of health and illness, while also helping me to highlight the stumbling blocks of interpretive practices shared by the sciences and the arts.

The first article from this study, published in Arizona Quarterly, focuses on a condition that appeared in 1910: initially a psychotic symptom of schizophrenia, “ambivalence” soon became a mainstream neurosis associated with young women and homosexuals. Yet by the late 1920s, ambivalence also described an aesthetic value associated with masculine intelligence. I analyze the gendered contradictions of this psychosocial history in Edith Wharton’s Twilight Sleep (1927) and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is The Night (1934).

Recently out in Modernism/modernity is my reading of race and addiction in Harlem Renaissance-era literature and science, with a focus on Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929) and early genetic theory. Another occasional piece, on the prehistory of the contemporary quantified self movement, appeared in Modernism/modernity’s online feature In These Times. Also for Modernism/modernity, and with Heather A. Love, I am currently co-editing a related Print+ essay cluster on “Modernism & Diagnosis.”

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