2018- Assistant Professor, Florida International University
2012-2017- Graduate Instructor/TA, University of California, San Diego
2010-2012 Graduate Instructor, Marquette University
GRADUATE COURSES TAUGHT
Transoceanic American Studies
UNDERGRADUATE COURSES TAUGHT
Rising Tides and Modern Waves: Early American Pirate Literature.
“American” Bodies: Approaches to Literature
Herman Melville and His Crew
‘Exultation is the Going’: Maritime Memoirs
Medicine, Morality, and Justice (UCSD)
Language, Science, and the Academy (UCSD)
Technology, Identity, and the Written Word (UCSD)
Public Sphere Literacy (Marquette)
Academic Literacy (Marquette)
“Material Tools and Textual Currents”
As I toured the deck of the newly constructed San Salvador, a ship inspired by the one that reached present-day San Diego in 1542, I marveled at my good fortune. I was teaching at sea.
My 2016 summer course at UC-San Diego, “Rising Tides and Modern Waves: Early American Pirate Literature,” culminated in a one-day field seminar at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. For the five weeks prior, the class of nine had explored how piracy shaped early American literature and culture. As a student wrote in an official evaluation, “Even though we focused on pirates, they provided a way to examine race, gender, class, revolutions, etc. in a really interesting way.” We penned letters to Cotton Mather in the personae of death-row pirates, thereby reproducing Puritan covenant theology and its jeremiads. We restaged imperial spectacle by performing Susanna Rowson’s play Slaves in Algiers (1794). We considered legal fictions’ binding power by tracking the maritime slave trade’s piratical character, as judged by Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Our final class was a mock piracy trial of Confederate letter-of-marque-holders. Each session, we probed literary aesthetics, historical context, and oceanic materialism.
We felt our success during an afternoon cruise of the San Diego harbor. A student joked that our vessel sailed alongside “Antonita the Mexican Contrabandista,” the cross-dressing and promiscuous heroine of a Mexican-American War-era dime novel. We then reflected on how modern narratives of criminalized movement at U.S.-Mexico land/sea borders echo the nineteenth-century. We had made similar transhistorical connections before; according to a student, “the course is expansive and attentive to both past and current social contexts and implications.” We had considered “Barbary” piracy’s legal legacy in present-day Somaliland. Students also discussed how early modern ideas of “the free sea” inform modern states’ claims to the climate-changed Arctic. The sea had ordered our classroom. Yet something about being at sea, a space surprisingly few students had sailed, cemented our comradery. We were a hearty crew on its final voyage.
Among the literature or composition classes I have taught, my most successful ones took place in similarly expansive and experiential classrooms. I first recognized this fact during my two years at Marquette University, where I held select classes at the campus art museum as an instructor of record in the First Year English program. There, my classes of fifteen students gave individual research presentations on current exhibits as part of a public literacy unit. When I arrived at UCSD, I reproduced this liberal-arts approach while integrating the strengths of a public research university. For example, I spurred students’ research by introducing them to my favorite manuscripts at UCSD’s Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages. Armed with a personal and online collection of artifacts, I aim to guide students’ primary-source research and literary study.
This interdisciplinary and hands-on focus guides additional courses in early American women writers, material culture, and Civil War literature. In each, I may use an 1852 card game adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) to teach sympathy’s narrative and ideological mechanics. As I argue in an article published in the Journal of the MMLA, playing the game materializes the ambivalent racial politics of Stowe’s abolitionist text by making players complicit in the separation of enslaved families. Students then research other Uncle Tom-related artifacts in advance of a student-led class in the style of Antiques Roadshow. This lesson embodies my overall philosophy: whether on ship or on shore, students thrive when given tools to map early America’s textual, material, and social currents.
Below you will find sample syllabi. I am happy to share lesson plans upon request.