Scottish Enlightenment, Restoration and Eighteenth Century Literature, Romantic Poetry, Popular and Elite Culture, The Value of the Humanities


I am an associate professor in the English Department at Temple University, specializing in English and Scottish literature during what scholars now refer to as the Long Eighteenth Century (1660-1832), which includes the Restoration, the eighteenth century, and the Romantic era. Many of my scholarly interests coalesced in Ballad Collection, Lyric, and the Canon: The Call of the Popular from The Restoration to the New Criticism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). I am also interested in discussions about the state of the academy and the value of the humanities, organizing academic labor (I currently serve as the Vice President of the Temple Association of University Professionals), community-based learning, and the literature of cities (in 2013, I established the department’s Study Abroad Summer in London).

I am in the early stages of a book with the working title, Time for the Humanities: Competing Narratives of Value from the Scottish Enlightenment to the 21st Century Academy. It begins with the work of Adam Smith and then a trio of Scottish writers in the next generation–Robert Burns, Joanna Baillie, and Walter Scott, who reflect on the writers the emergence in the Scottish Enlightenment of three ways of talking about value: political economy, aesthetics and belles lettres, and moral philosophy. Together, they offer a pluralistic way of valuing not only persons and objects but also narrative itself, including a reflexive turn toward narratives of education that underscore the value of studying the humanities. The latter half of the book tracks the fission of these ways of valuing into the disciplines of the modern university, disciplines that tend more toward competition and exclusion rather than mutual illumination.

This fission in narratives of value shapes the public’s understanding and misunderstanding of those of us who work in the humanities, who have unfortunately assisted in our isolation from and eclipse by disciplines typically accorded more explanatory power, such as economics. To make concrete these mutual communications and miscommunications, the latter half of the book is a series of case studies of practices and institutions in which university departments play only a partial role and yet offer opportunities for rethinking the value of the humanities: our students’ pre-professional desires as revealed in personal statements for graduate study, especially medical school; institutes and think-tanks seeking to influence humanities curricula; branches of US, UK, and Australian universities recently established in China and elsewhere; and experiments by universities in administering public high schools. I am also in the early stages of work on a Digital Humanities site on The Beggar’s Opera.


Selected Publications

  • “Localizing and Globalizing Burns’ Songs from Ayrshire to Calcutta: The Limits of Romanticism and Analogies of Improvement,” ed., Evan Gottlieb, Romanticism and Globalization Bucknell University Press, 2014), 57-77.
  • “Shakespeare’s Popular Songs and The Great Temptations of Lesser Lyric," The Oxford Handbook to Shakespeare’s Poetry, ed. Jonathan Post (Oxford University Press, 2013), 265-81.
  • “Doing Genre” (co-authored as part of “Group Phi”), New Formalisms and Literary Theory, ed. Verena Theile and Linda Tredennick, foreword by Heather Dubrow (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013), 54-68.
  • “The Dramatic Situation’ and ‘The Imagined Community’: Tales of the Ballad from Philology to the New Criticism and Beyond,” eds. Joseph Harris and Barbara Hillers, Child’s Children: Ballad Study and Its Legacies (Wissenschafter Verlag Trier, 2012), 56-68.
  • “Second-Sighted Scot: Allan Ramsay and the South Sea Bubble,” The Scottish Literary Review, Spring/Summer 2012 (4:1): 18-33.
  • “Ballads and Chapbooks,” Edinburgh Companion to Scottish Romanticism, ed. Murray Pittock (Edinburgh University Press, 2011), 13-26.
  • Ballad Collection, Lyric, and the Canon: The Call of the Popular from the Restoration to the New Criticism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007)

Courses Taught

  • The Beggar’s Opera and Its Legacies (graduate)
  • Senior Seminar: The Transatlantic Gothic
  • Special Topics: London In/As Text
  • Scottish Romanticism (grad)
  • Introduction to English Literature, 1660-1900
  • Introduction to English Studies