At Penn State I teach courses in nineteenth-century US literature and culture, oceanic studies, material text studies and the history of the book, popular fiction, Herman Melville, and the environmental humanities.
My first book, The View from the Mast-Head: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives (UNC Press, 2008), received the John Gardner Maritime Research Award. I have also published a critical edition of Horrors of Slavery (1808), William Ray's Barbary captivity narrative (Rutgers UP, 2008). I recently edited a special issue of Atlantic Studies on "Oceanic Studies," as well as a volume of essays entitled Turns of Event: American Literary Studies in Motion (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016). I am completing a book called The News at the Ends of the Earth: Oceanic Studies and the Ecomedia of Polar Exploration. I am a frequent contributor to Avidly, a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books.
My work has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (most recently, a 2014-2015 NEH Fellowship), the Mellon Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Huntington Library, the John Carter Brown Library, the Bibliographical Society of America, the Newberry Library, the National Humanities Center, and the American Antiquarian Society, in which I was elected to membership in 2013.
In fall 2015 I was the interim Co-Director of the Penn State Polar Center. I served as the Associate Director of the Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities from January 2012-June 2013; previously, I was the Director of the Center for American Literary Studies (2007-2010), to which I return as Interim Director in spring 2016. I was the 2015 President of the Melville Society. A founder of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, I was the C19 Vice President in 2014-2016 and become President in 2016-2018.