Research Expertise and Interest
18th-century British literature, 19th century British literature, critical theory, poetry
I specialize in Enlightenment and Romantic literature and science, with particular interests in rhetoric and poetics, pre-Darwinian biology, and materialist theories of history, poetry, and nature. My first book, Sweet Science: Romantic Materialism and the New Logics of Life (University of Chicago Press, 2017), shows how writers from William Blake to Goethe, Percy Shelley and the young Karl Marx revived ancient atomist science to argue for poetry as a privileged technique of empirical inquiry, especially when it came to representing the new problem of biological life in its dependency upon broader social and natural histories. The book has been awarded the Kenshur Prize for an outstanding monograph of interest to eighteenth-century scholars and the MLA Prize for a First Book (2018). A new research project takes up the ecology of utopia in the early socialist projects dubbed “Romantic” and “Utopian”; another seeks the poetic and scientific roots of the “new” concepts of biosemiosis and plasticity in the long history of epigenetic neuroscience.
Before joining the Berkeley faculty this year, I worked as an assistant professor of English at Cornell University (2012-17) and a postdoctoral fellow in Biopolitics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2011-12). I received my Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (English, German, French) from U.C. Berkeley in 2011.