I am a second year departmentally-funded PhD candidate at the University of Warwick, supervised by Professor Tim Lockley, studying the history of reading in the antebellum South. I am particularly interested in the ways in which reading was used as a means of negotiating the political and economic turbulence of early American nationhood, and as a vehicle through which the myriad paradigms of American national and individual identities were articulated to, and interrogated by, readers in the Old South.
Provisional Title: Reading the Sectional Crisis: Antebellum Intellectual Culture and the Southern Middle Class.
My research explores the reading vogues and experiences of the nascent Southern middle class during the final two decades of the antebellum period. Framed against a 'reading revolution' in the United States, these years are especially interesting as they witnessed the rise of a Southern middle class of urban professionals, just as the already tenuous foundations of American nationhood began to fracture. In the face of imminent crisis, and in the midst of sweeping and fundamental shifts in conceptions of identity and selfhood, it was to literature that middling Southerners turned in the hope of negotiating these unique intellectual challenges.
As such, my thesis is currently centered around the following broad questions:
- To which books and authors did the Southern middle class turn in the face of increasing sectional and socioeconomic divisions?
- What uses and functions did these readers ascribe to their books?
- To what extent did their reading experiences influence their sense of social class and national identity, and by extension, the relationship between these two identities?
Through an examination of their surviving reading notes, my thesis aims to reconstruct how this period was experienced intellectually by 'ordinary readers', offering an insight into the most intricate mechanics of identity construction and deconstruction the period inevitably produced.
2019 - 2022: University of Warwick
PhD - History
2017 - 2018: University of Liverpool
MA - History: Pass with Distinction
Dissertation: “Books for the Million!”: Fiction Factories and the Contest of Meaning in American Dime Westerns, 1860-1875. Supervised by Professor Mark Towsey.
2014 - 2017: University of Liverpool
BA (Hons) - History: First Class
Dissertation: The Savage and the Civilised: Gender and the Crisis of Identity in Eighteenth-Century British Literary Culture. Supervised by Professor Mark Towsey.
Funding & Awards
2020: Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship
Virginia Museum of History and Culture
2020: Major Award
The Bibliographical Society
2019 - 2022: Department of History Doctoral Scholarship
University of Warwick
2017: Mark Almeras Thompson Prize
University of Liverpool
Conferences & Seminars
April 2021: Arch Dalrymple III History Graduate Association Conference (University of Mississippi)
Reading Sectionalism: David Schenck and the Collapse of American Nationhood.
February 2021: Oxford Early American Research Seminar (Oxford University)
"No Class or Age Escapes it": The Novel-Reading Disease and the Democratisation of American Nationalism.
November 2020: Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies Postgraduate Conference (Durham University)
“An Excessive and Diseased Sensibility”: Emotive Reading and the Contest for Interpretative Authority in the Antebellum United States.
August 2020: Warwick History PG Podcast
Printed Identities and Identities of Print in the Early-Modern English Parliament and the Old South.
'Communities of Disunion: Books and Sectionalism in the Antebellum South', Pons Aelius, 13 (2021), pp. 17-29.
History of Reading
American Literary History
History of the Book