Little Women 150

Throughout 2018 and 2019, fans of Louisa May Alcott will be celebrating the Little Women sesquicentennial. To mark this event, the Louisa May Alcott Society is publishing a collection of short essays curated by Kansas State University’s Greg Eiselein and Anne Phillips, with each essay devoted to a single chapter of Little Women. My contribution is a reading of Chapter 11, “Experiments”:

“Louisa May Alcott was deeply affected by the Fruitlands experiment. While she eventually wrote a satirical history of it, her first published commentary on her father’s failed utopia appears in Chapter 11 of Little Women, “Experiments,” where the March sisters indulge in the “all play, and no work” lifestyle that led to Fruitlands’ failure and the near ruin of Alcott’s family.”

Read more here:

2018-2019 Barbara L. Packer Fellowship

I am honored to be the recipient of the 2018-2019 Barbara L. Packer Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. The Packer Fellowship was established by the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society in honor of my late advisor Barbara Lee Packer (1947-2010).

During my residence at the American Antiquarian Society, I completed research on two chapters of my dissertation–one on Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and another on Theodore Parker. Archival research is particularly important for these two Transcendentalists because, compared to Emerson, Fuller, and Thoreau, there has been relatively little written about them. Some of the specific materials I consulted included Peabody’s manuscript letters and her 33-page journal of Margaret Fuller’s “Conversations”; the correspondence, notebooks, and scrapbook of Theodore Parker; and the unpublished correspondence of Ellen Tucker Emerson. My project contextualizes my claims about Transcendental optimism and what I call their affective style within the cultures of sentiment and criticism in 1830s and 1840s. This meant consulting a range of materials in book history that the AAS offers, including nineteenth-century religious periodicals such as the Christian Examiner, Christian Register, and Scriptural Interpreter; Transcendentalist periodicals, such as Specimens of Foreign Literature and The Harbinger; moral instruction manuals; annuals and gift books. (I have more to say about my experience as this year’s Packer Fellowship recipient in a forthcoming issue of Emerson Society Papers.)

This past May, I met with other members of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society, including Phyllis Cole, Roger Thompson, Michael C. Weisenburg, and Kristina West, at this year’s American Literature Association Conference where I received the award and a copy of Professor Packer’s The Transcendentalists.

For more information about the Barbara L. Packer Fellowship, visit the American Antiquarian Society’s site here.

2017 NCBCC

Some old news to share: I won second prize in the 2017 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest.

The award ceremony was held back in October at the Library of Congress, the same day I was to be in Lyon, France, for the “Thoreau from across the Pond” international symposium at the École Normale Supérieure. Though I could not accept the prize in person, I am very grateful to the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA), the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (FABS), the Grolier Club, and the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress, as well as the Jay I. Kislak Foundation for sponsoring this competition.

You can read about my collection and the other winning collections at the New Antiquarian.

Thoreau bicentennial and a new website

I am happy to report that last summer’s Thoreau Society Bicentennial Gathering was a huge success. The Thoreau Society and the Thoreau Farm kicked off the celebration on July 12, 2017, with a birthday cake. The highlight of the AG was the moving keynote by Terry Tempest Williams. It was great meeting Terry and reuniting with the community of Thoreau scholars and enthusiasts who support the mission of the Thoreau Society. Once again, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society sponsored an evening panel where I had the opportunity to speak about Thoreau’s influence on Emerson’s later writings. I also contributed an essay to the special bicentennial issue of the Thoreau Society Bulletin on the subject Thoreau and truth, which coincided with last summer’s event.

Having helmed the Bulletin for over three years, I decided it was time to move on. My last issue as editor was TSB #300. I am happy to announce that Brent Ranalli has taken over editorial duties.

The big 200th birthday celebration for Henry David Thoreau and my role as the editor of The Thoreau Society Bulletin took up a lot of my time during the past four years. Now that the Thoreau Bicentennial has officially ended, I thought I would finally get around to re-launching my personal website.

To misquote Robert Frost, Something there is that doesn’t like a personal website–in the same way one might loathe Linkedin self-promotion or roll one’s eyes at the convening of a TED talk. And yet, as Frost would remind us, our ambivalence toward such things does not prevent us from doing what it expected of us. So it is, begrudgingly, that I give you (who may need least reminding, mostly) this monument to my academic career–which is probably as monumental as a stone turned over.