My research centers around eighteenth-century satire, material texts, and the history of science. Oxford is the ideal host for my research thanks to its rich material resources in the Bodleian Libraries as well as in archives of local museums, such as the Ashmolean and that which is dedicated to the History of Science.
My experience in the academic world is unique because it is shaped by institutions beyond the traditional university setting. While I lived in Los Angeles, I have had the immense privilege of working at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, the Henry E. Huntington Library, and even within the private library of distinguished Samuel Johnson collector Loren Rothschild. These experiences taught me that nothing can replace what is gained from being an active member of a scholarly community. Thus, at a very early stage in my career, I had experience from both sides of the classroom as well as both sides of the reference desk (plus much of the area in between). At UCLA, I taught classes, spoke at conferences, and even organized a conference of my own. Beyond campus, I curated book displays, archived rare material, and designed an outreach program which redefined the special collections library as a public space.
At present, my interest is in the figure of Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of the famed Charles Darwin) and his Midland colleagues (particularly Anna Seward). Erasmus’s life and work epitomized the wide-reaching, “interdisciplinary” (precisely because they predated the crystallization of scholarly disciplines) interests of 18th-century men of letters. He was a doctor by profession and a poet by true vocation. His master work The Botanic Garden takes up Linnaeus’s sexual system of classifying plants as a subject of heroic verse poetry, and in so doing makes a fascinating piece of dialogic literature in which one may enjoy the beauties of local English plants as well as learn the rigorous taxonomic system which would come to dominate botanic practice.
As a scholar of the long eighteenth century, I am acutely aware of how this period can be perceived as one with little wisdom to offer our present moment. All my experience speaks to the contrary. The emergent field of Medical Humanities and rising interest in the History of Science seem to represent a new marriage between the sciences and the humanities. Early moderns never conceived of themselves as belonging to particular disciplines; thus, I recognize that bridging between the humanities and the sciences is actually a return to an older model of thinking. Likewise, the field of Digital Humanities, which continues to present exciting new horizons for humanists in every field, emanates directly from scholars of my period who (long before the virtual demands placed by the global pandemic) have invested in digital resources to help readers engage with rare material. To move forward into a new era of interdisciplinary scholarship, we need only look to the past for example.
While Oxford is my host, Ertegun House is my home (at least for the duration of my program). I am happy to connect with anyone interested in my research, my work in cultural institutions, or my time with Ertegun.