My scholarship investigates multimedia adaptations of nineteenth-century British literature as methods of critical engagement with the literary period. While adaptation has been theorized particularly within the fields of fandom studies and film and media studies, it is only recently emerged as a major theme within literary studies and the digital humanities. Digital humanities scholars are becoming interested in teaching students creativity and in illustrating how new scholarly modalities (hypertext, social media, digital tools, and even forms of three-dimensional printing) can perform similar interpretive functions as written essays. My work historicizes this creative turn in the digital humanities by aligning it with fan cultures adapting the work of Romantic and Victorian authors in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. I use this research to advocate for the ability of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students to be recognized for the creative endeavors they undertake; chart forms of adaptation in fan, creative, and scholarly communities in different historical periods; and employ creative adaptation as an interpretive practice in my own digital humanities projects.
William Blake and the Digital Humanities: Collaboration, Participation, and Social Media, examines everything from media adaptations of Blake to Blake’s presence on sites like Twitter and Facebook, where the popularity of quoting Blake is second only to the Bible and Shakespeare. Our book examines Blakean smart mobs, Twitter feeds, and social networks as folksonomic alternatives to what we call the taxonomic tendencies of Blake’s collected editions from Geoffrey Keynes to the online William Blake Archive. Mark Greenberg found it “[b]old, open, welcoming differences, valuing reception over authority.”
Romanticism and Comic Studies
My work on adaptation extends to my other scholarly activities. In particular, my exploration of comic studies emerges from a consideration of Blake’s visual legacy. “Panelling Parallax: The Fearful Symmetry of William Blake and Alan Moore,” explores how Moore and artist Dave Gibbons transform the motif of symmetry into the panel layout for the fifth issue of their groundbreaking work Watchmen. I am also editing a special issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly with Anastasia Salter on “Comics as Scholarship,” where we encourage scholars to adapt their research into sequential art.
My second book project Steampunk and Alternate History: The Nineteenth Century in an Age of Digital Humanities will explore the anachronistic DIY making culture of the Victorian science-fiction genre known as steampunk as a method for understanding the political stakes of what I call “alt-historicism” – the production of alternative histories that reconstruct different power-relations. The project will also explore the construction of what Matt Ratto and Stephen Hockema call critical making, or the construction of theoretically-informed objects, for the study of literary history.
Areas of Research