I joined the faculty at Penn State in the Fall of 2012 to teach Romantic and Victorian literature, as well as critical theory. My book project, “The Sublime Aesthetics of Contingency” examines images of suspension—particularly suspended bodies—in the poetry and prose of the Romantic and early Victorian periods. I argue that suspension, as figure and practice, emerges at the point of contact with a contingent, chaotic reality. The figures at the center of this study—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, and Christina Rossetti—draw upon the discursive, cognitive, and cultural resources of suspension as they encounter contingency, seeing disaster explicitly as a crisis of signification. The sublime aesthetics of contingency aims to meet the moment of suffering, suspending the upwardly-focused drive towards transcendence and mental escape. In the aesthetics of contingency, transcendence is imagined not as a freedom from external conditions (nor as the mastery of those conditions) but as a freedom within those conditions: a sublime whose telos is not reason but contingency—the undoing or suspension of telos.
My articles have appeared in Victorian Poetry and Romantic Circles. A new essay on Shelley's "Mont Blanc" is forthcoming in Studies in Romanticism, and I have a short piece on suspension in Jacques Derrida: Key Concepts, edited by Claire Colebrook. Additionally, I am working on an article-length manuscript that examines the phenomenon of extreme sports--particularly those sponsored by Red Bull--through the lens of the Romantic sublime.